Together with the board, property manager Ehsan Haghi mapped out an approach where savings from initial measures would generate cash flow through utility savings that would help offset the cost of longer payback items. A similar approach was taken at Aberfoyle, where lighting upgrades and new exhaust fan controls in the underground garage generated savings to help pay for larger ticket items like boilers.
As an older building, Kensington had the advantage of being able to dip into its reserve funds to pay for a lot of its bigger ticket items while Aberfoyle could only use the surplus in its reserves. But for both buildings, a careful staging of upgrade measures helped to maximize the savings and minimize disruption and the impact on building cash flow or reserves.
Kensington got started by replacing conventional domestic hot water boilers with much more fuel efficient condensing boilers, while Aberfoyle focused on electricity savings by replacing T12 fluorescents with T8s in the parking garage and installing carbon monoxide detectors which, in turn, now triggered exhaust fan operations only when needed, reducing their use by 90 per cent.
Both buildings later replaced atmospheric boilers with condensing boilers for building heat. At Kensington, five atmospheric boilers were replaced with two condensing boilers, of which only one is usually needed to adequately heat the building. Aberfoyle chose a slightly different approach, installing two new condensing boilers but retaining four of its older boilers to help carry the load in peak periods. It also replaced one of two atmospheric domestic hot water boilers with a condensing boiler with new controls.
At Kensington, the new boilers were deliberately oversized so that later they could be linked into the air handling unit and replace the highly inefficient standalone burner used to heat incoming air. Aberfoyle, like Kensington, replaced the conventional fan motor in its air handling unit (AHU) with an electricity-saving variable speed drive. Unfortunately, it later discovered that its originally oversized AHU was being turned on and off too frequently, causing maintenance headaches. The building managers are now looking at using that extra capacity by following along the lines of what Kensington did in hooking the AHU to the building’s main heating and cooling systems.
Kensington then tackled two more items: It took out more than 200 water-wasting toilets and replaced them with top efficiency models (toilet water use was reduced by 68 per cent) and upgraded to a high efficiency chiller. The building’s chiller needed to be replaced anyway, but 15 Kensington decided to invest in a high efficiency chiller which would improve performance while using half as much energy as the old one.
At 15 Kensington, the overall project reduced the building’s annual utility costs by over $65,000. The green upgrades will pay for themselves in under five years, and created a Net Present Value of over $183,000 for the building. For Two Aberfoyle, the simple payback was under three years and the Net Present Value of the upgrades is $270,000.
In retrospect, both projects look like no-brainers. But the building managers and board had to work together in both buildings to make the case to residents. The Kensington board and manager prepared a detailed budget demonstrating the clear financial advantages of the retrofit while Book arranged a “town hall” meeting at Aberfoyle to explain how fast payback upgrades could be used to pay for more costly items with deeper returns.
Both used newsletters and notices to keep residents informed as work progressed, while Kensington’s manager broke savings down on a per-unit basis to dispel any concerns about who would really benefit.
These are among the valuable lessons captured in a new series of case studies prepared by the TowerWise program to help condominium boards understand the potential benefits of a retrofit and to learn from the experience of others. The full case studies are available at www.towerwise.ca/case_studies.
Another great resource for condo residents is the new Power of Green guide to planning and executing a retrofit. The guide walks you through the steps of assessing your building’s current systems and performance, deciding which upgrade measures make sense, developing an integrated plan to maximize return on investment, and selling a retrofit to your fellow board members and residents. The guide also has sections on how to finance a retrofit, including the legal steps required before dipping into reserves or taking out a loan, and renewable energy options. You can download the guide or order print copies at www.towerwise.ca/power_of_green.
The truth is that in almost every case, condos can save big on energy costs right now. But those inevitable future increases in utility costs are going to make getting control of your single largest addressable expense all the more urgent. So take a look at the great resources available at TowerWise.ca and start taking control of your energy costs.
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