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Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

UNDERSTANDING SOLAR ENERGY IN ALBERTA

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation has recently partnered with The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, The City of Edmonton and The City of Grande Prairie to advance the understanding of solar electric systems in Alberta. Through a $38,000 contribution the AREF made possible construction of a solar photovoltaic test bed atop Grande Prairie city hall. This test bed will operate in tandem with a City of Edmonton sponsored system installed at NAIT’s main campus.

 These solar reference arrays are designed to study the impact of snow and tilt angle on solar electric installations in Alberta’s rugged climate.

Project Overview

 Computer modeling tells us that Alberta has extraordinary solar electric potential. Big clear skies and cooler temperatures are the ideal environment for optimizing solar photovoltaic production. Although computer modeling is a necessary first step it requires some assumptions which can only be verified through real world testing. The solar reference arrays are the next step needed to understand system design and financial impacts of solar energy in Alberta.

 Reference Array Design

 The lower solar modules (panels) have been arranged in pairs at the most commonly found residential roof pitches. The fifth pair represents the latitude of the array location (55 degrees for GP, 53 degrees for Edmonton) and the sixth at 90 degrees to study the effects of wall mounting.

 To study the impact of snow the left-most module of each pair will be regularly cleared of all snow while the right side modules will be left to Mother Nature.

 NAIT’s Alternative Energy Program will be collecting and analyzing data from each module at five minute intervals for the full duration of the five year project.

The Foundation Supports Energy Efficiency in Real Estate

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is currently supporting an energy efficiency pilot project for commercial buildings and industrial facilities. The project, EE Check, provides assistance to facilities to undertake an energy efficiency audit, develop a business case for upgrades and implement selected upgrades.

The first building to complete an audit was the Petex building in downtown Calgary. The owners, Western Securities, worked with the EE Check team and an independent energy auditor – Mission Green Buildings – to quantify their energy saving opportunities.

The energy audit compared the building’s energy use to both average and high-performing buildings in Alberta (on a m2 basis) and identified 15 opportunities for reducing energy use.

Not all of the opportunities identified meet the client’s needs from an operational or economic perspective, but a number of the opportunities were selected for implementation. One of the most cost effective upgrades involves higher efficiency stairwell lights that are estimated to pay for themselves in less than one year through the energy they save. The energy savings also translate into reduced environmental impacts for the building’s operation.

As Western Securities works to implement the energy saving measures recommended in the audit, the EE Check team will be working to document the energy, cost and emissions savings achieved.

This project is another demonstration of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s commitment to increasing the sustainability of Alberta’s real estate industry – both from an economic and environmental perspective.

For more information on the EE Check pilot project, please contact Jesse Row at jesser@pembina.org.