Energy Performance in Condominiums

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund’s TowerWise Program recently put 50 Toronto condominium buildings to the energy test.  We contracted Mann Engineering to conduct energy audits of condominiums participating in our Green Condo Champions project.  Participating buildings ranged in age from two to 40.  What we found is that a lot of condominiums are paying far too much for energy, no matter what age their building is.

In fact, the range in natural gas consumption per square metre of building space was vast, with the worst performing building using more than five times more energy than the best performing building.   Newer buildings also were little better than older buildings:  In fact, buildings in the 6-10 year old age range were some of the worst performers (click here for a chart).

 Why can some condos use as little as 3-6 cubic metres of gas per square metre while others use 20 cubic metres or more?  The answers are complex but there are a number of key issues:

Simple lack of awareness.  The best performing buildings are those where the board and the property manager are actively engaged in monitoring energy costs and improving performance over time. Condo board members are not energy experts and have no easy way of comparing their building’s energy performance to others (until now).  And replacing boilers and fan motors is usually not a top-of-mind issue with most residents.  But with energy being easily the No. 1 controllable cost for condominiums, it is an issue that every condo board should be looking at closely. Our Power of Green guidebook for condo’s provides advice for boards on how to take charge of their own energy performance.

The Condo Act.  Ontario’s Condominium Act places strict limits on what condo corporations can do with their reserve funds.  Early replacement of equipment like boilers is generally a no-no, even if a new boiler can dramatically improve energy efficiency.  And the act actually stipulates that the corporation should replace “same with same”, which makes it difficult to invest in higher cost equipment that will actually result in long-term savings.  Borrowing to fund equipment replacement or building upgrades is equally complicated requiring a borrowing bylaw and consent of the majority of members.

There is a better way.  The Canadian Condominium Institute has recommended changes to the Condo Act which would classify all energy efficiency investments as eligible reserve fund expenditures. Energy efficiency would then become  a mandatory element in every condominium’s reserve fund study.

This would preserve the intent of the Condominium Act while also laying the groundwork for a significant improvement in energy efficiency.    It’s a win-win solution that will help condos develop solid plans for improving the energy efficiency – and lowering the greenhouse gas emissions – of their building without comprising the integrity of reserve funds.  In fact, the cash flow savings generated by a well-planned energy retrofit can actually make the reserve fund healthier and help keep condo fees under control.

With condominiums becoming the housing form of choice for ever more Torontonians, this change is urgently needed.

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3 Responses to Energy Performance in Condominiums

  1. Jasna says:

    Hi there,
    I am not sure if you are able to help me but I am looking for someone to come to my brand new condo to perform an energy audit. I suspect my windows are leaking air but my builder refuses to consider it. I have only been there since mid-november 2013 and there was already water damage and mould by christmas (maybe even before, but i didnt notice it right away).

    I am looking for any guidence as to how I can check whether my windows are installed properly / insulated and perhaps if you know who I can contact to conduct this work.

    Should I contact an energy audit (expensive as you know) or is there another option?

    Thank you in advance for any advice you might have for me.


    • Bryan Purcell says:

      Hi Jasna,

      An energy audit would typically be done for the whole building/condo corporation, rather than a single suite. Done for a whole building it is a cost effective investment. But if your concern is specifically a construction deficiency in your suite, probably not the way to go. Suggest contacting property manager as well as board of directors to register the complaint and ask them to assess it. If it is happening in your suite chances are you are not only one. The board of directors should take lead in assembling information about all construction deficiencies in the building and then taking suitable action to rectify with the developer and/or tarion. Hope that helps.

  2. Marg Goodwin says:

    We moved into our condo unit in June 2010, our maintenance fee was on the higher end but we decided it was worthwhile as the building has a lot of amenities.
    Recently, our condo board decided that we should pay our own hydro. (Our maintenance fee increase by 13.7%). I’m concerned that since we have received our hydro bills, I have watch our bills increase from $199.00 for two months to $379.00 and our recent bill is $259.00.
    I live with my parents (who are 84 – 89), we don’t know use our dishwasher, we do 3 loads a week of laundry on off peak times. I have purchased a heater and have turned off the base heating from the fuse box. Our condo unit is only 1250 square ft.
    My friends who live in a 3 level home are only paying $119.00 every two months.
    We have brought the large bills to our property manager who only suggestion was to increase our automatic payment from $100 a month to $200 a month.
    I don’t know where our suite meter is kept or even the meter is connect to our unit or some else’s unit.
    I’m looking for someone to come in to do energy assessment, so that we can reduce our hydro bill. I don’t want to go through another winter scared to turn our central air or baseboard heaters because I don’t want to see further increases to our bills.
    Any advice that you could give me, would be helpful.

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