25-55 St. Clair federal bldg. retrofit featured at Green Building Festival

Nicholas Sokic
Business reporter

IMAGE: A rendering of 25-55 St. Clair Ave E. post-construction
A rendering of 25-55 St. Clair Ave E. post-construction. (Courtesy Public Services and Procurement Canada)

25-55 St. Clair Ave. E in Toronto – owned by Public Services and Procurement Canada – will serve as a model for deep energy retrofits once construction is complete, reducing the building’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 82 per cent.

The 11-storey Arthur Meighen building – originally built in the 1950’s – will become one of Canada’s first federal carbon-neutral buildings.

Markham, Ont.-based BGIS is the project leader, while DIALOG handles the architecture and Urbacon is working as construction manager. The latter two companies were awarded their contracts in 2017, with the project beginning in July 2018.

“The result here is this: This older building is now predicted to outperform the highest standards of the Toronto Green Standards. So old becomes new again, the community gets revitalized and re-energized,” said Charles Marshall, a partner at DIALOG who used 25-55 St. Clair as a case study for deep energy retrofits during his recent presentation at the Green Building Festival in Toronto.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three projects featured at the Green Building Festival which SustainableBiz will chronicle in a mini-series over the next few days. Part II features a project at the Univ. of Calgary

“We achieve these performance results, including a low-energy use intensity and upwards of 60, 80 per cent savings in energy and GHG (versus) the pre-retrofit conditions.”

Once complete, the building will accommodate staff from several government departments and agencies, including Canada Revenue Agency, Canada Border Services Agency as well as the Immigration and Refugee Board. Approximately 1,500 federal employees will work in the building.

The base building will be complete in spring 2023, and fully complete that summer with the tenants to move in by the fall. The project has created over 300 full-time construction and consultancy jobs during its four-year duration.

25-55 St. Clair rehabilitation project

All building systems, including electrical, plumbing, mechanical, heating, ventilation and HVAC are being replaced.

That 80 per cent in energy savings will work out to a reduction of 700 tonnes of GHG per year. The building is forecast use 72 kW-h per square metre each year.

Upgrades include a geothermal system – 58 ground source boreholes drilled 150 metres under the existing parking garage. 

“These projects are possible with the right dedication, the right buy-in and the right objective set,” Marshall said.

Occupancy sensors and smart metering will assist with reducing energy use. As well, a basement cistern will collect rainwater from the roof to reuse in the building’s mechanical systems.

The building will utilize 850 solar photovoltaic panels generating 348 mW-h per year, providing 15 per cent of total energy use and reducing GHG emissions by 15 tonnes annually.

“This is probably the lowest TEDi (thermal energy demand intensity) building that we’re currently working on, but the predicted TEDi is about 15 kilowatt hours per square metre per year,” he said. “So the specific technical solutions may vary, but getting those heating-cooling loads absolutely down is absolutely critical.”

Bird-friendly glazing will be implemented on the first 12 metres of building height – to prevent bird strikes with windows and reflective surfaces.

There will be bicycle storage lockers and showers, as well as easy access to the TTC. Over 40 electric vehicle charging stations will be installed.

Embodied carbon in the building

Also noted was the reuse of existing concrete and steel structures. Marshall discussed a lifecycle assessment of the building that revealed up-front carbon amounts for 91 per cent of total embodied carbon emissions. Reusing those structures saves about 75 per cent – 7,800 tonnes of carbon – in the building.

“These projects are strategic, it really requires careful analysis of a building and scenarios to identify the right solutions, that almost inevitably requires deeper investment and recapitalization of the building,” Marshall told the festival audience.

As he told SustainableBiz in a later interview, the construction industry is risk-averse. Having shown that certain net-zero technologies have been de-risked, his hope is for 25-55 St. Clair and other buildings featured during his festival presentation to become more commonplace over the years as Canada continues moving toward its net-zero goals.

“We’re trying to get to a 37 per cent reduction in the buildings sector by 2030. I’m an engineer, so I’m a big fan of simple math,” he explained. “But how do you get to 37 per cent? Well, you go find half the buildings, because that’s probably as many as we could possibly get to, and you retrofit them by 75 to 80 per cent.”

“Then you would get to your 37 per cent right?”

Natalia Ortiz Moreno

Natalia Ortiz, student of Project Management Environmental (PME) program in Seneca Polytechnic, has an Environmental Engineering background completed at Universidad El Bosque in Colombia. She has always been involved in sustainability roles and projects that included Environmental Management Systems implementation, Water Treatment Systems’ design and operation, Hazardous and Conventional Waste management and minimization practices, as well as Ecosystem’s Conservation and Energy
Efficiency programs.

For the PME – Applied Project Management Course, Natalia developed a Green Roof Assessment Tool for Seneca Polytechnic’s Office of Sustainability, with the aim to provide green roof technology recommendations best suited to a particular scenario, taking into consideration multiple aspects of green roofs and buildings; infrastructure, design, materials, environmental factors, and costs, as well as the Toronto Municipal Code – Green Roof bylaw. Natalia also has a scientific journal publication as the main author of the project “Selection and sizing of industrial wastewater treatment units required at the
new maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) aircraft facility owned by Avianca S.A. in Rionegro Antioquia” in the El Bosque University Journal of Technology.

Natalia strongly believes there are several research topics left to be developed, and the importance of
working towards Sustainability from different backgrounds, knowledge, and cultures to build strong, productive, and resilient communities.
With the vision of growing cities and infrastructure along with nature, always preserving and respecting the ecosystems’ attributes and services, Natalia would like to keep researching and acquiring more experience in Sustainability roles.

Emily Smit

Emily is a second-year PhD student in Geography at the University of Toronto, and a co-operator of a small home renovation company, Magnus Home Improvements. Her research seeks to determine how single-family homes can quickly and best be retrofit to achieve Toronto’s emissions reductions targets – including net-zero by 2040 – as part of the TransformTO climate action plan. Specifically, she will assess the impact of municipal home energy reporting and disclosure programs, as well as produce recommendations for growing the retrofit labour force in ways that attend to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Further, her research seeks to understand how home retrofit activities can be regenerative and produce net-positive impacts for humans and the environment towards transformative, place-based sustainability. When not at her computer, Emily can be found cycling with her kids to and from school or making funky sounds on her analog synthesizer.

Bofa Udisi

Bofa is a sustainability professional with over seven years in the energy and environment industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Energy and Petroleum Studies from Novena University in Nigeria and graduate certificates in Energy Management and Environmental Project Management from Seneca College in Toronto. In 2020, he graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Master of Environment and Business degree. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Building Science program at Toronto Metropolitan University, researching whole-life carbon reduction in new construction and building renovations.

Bofa‘s work experience is primarily in the built environment, working in the private and public sectors in roles that involve structural and environmental assessment of building structures, HVAC engineering design and sales, and facilities management. Bofa is a member of several industry associations, such as the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), the American Society for Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and the Project Management Institute (PMI). SBC’s bursary will go a long way in supporting Bofa‘s research and his desire to learn.