Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAPREIT) owns, in whole or in part, more than 67,000 units in Canada and the Netherlands. Energy management is a key priority for this real estate investment trust. In a few short years, CAPREIT has significantly reduced the carbon footprint of its building stock through smart energy efficiency measures. How and why? We’ll tell you about that and more in this article.
“The first step in a decarbonization process is deciding to take action and do things differently,” says Marc Kaddissi, Associate Director, Sustainability and Conservation at CAPREIT. With this in mind, CAPREIT has been implementing conservation and energy efficiency measures for more than 20 years and has made decarbonizing its properties a priority since 2016.
The power of collaboration
To assist CAPREIT in this process, CAPREIT engaged the services of KROME, the consulting enginerring firm, as well as working with the Government of Québec, Énergir, and Hydro-Québec.
Teamwork is critical in this process. It has allowed CAPREIT to test several pilot projects and innovative measures that have helped it take its decarbonization projects to the next level.
On Énergir’s side, the DATECH representative and advisor actively support and collaborate with CAPREIT and KROME to recommend optimal technological solutions and maximize the amount of eligible energy efficiency grants for each project.
This initiative has paid off. In just a few short years, CAPREIT has reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 52% in buildings where it has rolled out energy efficiency and decarbonization measures. These spectacular results arise from a set of energy efficiency strategies and measures that we outline below.
Smart equipment replacement
Whenever equipment needs to be replaced (because it is end-of-life or inefficient), CAPREIT opts for high-efficiency equipment that uses renewable energy—such as hydroelectricity in Québec.
“But we’re doing it smartly, because electricity is more expensive than natural gas, and we don’t want to overload the grid at peak times,” Kaddissi says. “That makes dual energy a great solution.”
When equipment is replaced, CAPREIT also takes the opportunity to evaluate all electromechanical systems in the building and identify different ways to increase synergy between devices to optimize their energy consumption.
Electric heat pumps
The use of electric heat pumps for the production of domestic hot water is also part of the solutions adopted by CAPREIT. These devices not only reduce energy consumption but also GHG emissions, thanks to their energy efficiency, by nearly 300%. Heat pumps are also used to heat homes during the off-season.
CAPREIT systematically replaces its water cooling towers with dry coolers.
“Coupled with a heat pump chiller, these units allow for aerothermal heating for much of the winter,” says Kaddissi.
As a result, gas boilers are used much less, which means lower natural gas consumption and GHG emissions. By replacing water cooling towers, CAPREIT also eliminates water loss due to evaporation, which can often be up to several million litres per building.
To optimize the energy efficiency of equipment, CAPREIT recovers waste heat from existing equipment and transfers it to new systems, where appropriate.
“For example, we can recover the heat in the stale air, before it is removed from the building, to preheat the new air,” Kaddissi says.
Using natural gas from renewable sources
Once these measures are implemented, remaining conventional natural gas consumption can be replaced, in whole or in part, by renewable natural gas (RNG) to further reduce GHG emissions. Based on the recommendations of Énergir’s team, CAPREIT made this choice, becoming the first company in the multi-residential sector to choose RNG for its buildings.
Many other benefits
Combined, these energy efficiency strategies and measures significantly reduce the carbon footprint of CAPREIT’s building portfolio. They also offer other benefits, including reduced operatieng costs, better management of electrical demand, and increased comfort for residents.
“Contrary to what one might think, energy efficiency and decarbonization projects increase occupant well-being because they often involve upgrading certain equipment and controls,” stresses Kaddissi.
The importance of monitoring
Whatever measures are implemented, regular monitoring is necessary and crucial after deployment to ensure that the expected energy performance and savings are achieved, explains Dan Rames, Senior Director, Sustainability and Conservation at CAPREIT.
“One of the best practices in this regard is to frequently analyze gas and electric bills,” he says.
CAPREIT’s example shows that a holistic and pragmatic approach to decarbonization—based on a detailed analysis of buildings’ energy needs and supported by a genuine desire for change—can have extremely positive environmental and economic impacts by generating savings, creating jobs, and making housing more appealing to target clienteles.
Ann-Judith Bélanger, Eng.
Senior Advisor, Energy Expertise