Program pairs landlords and tenants in effort to save energy

Published in The Globe and Mail by Renata D’Aliesio


In office towers throughout Toronto, landlords and tenants are working together to scan for typical – and not so typical – ways to reduce energy waste. This type of collaboration isn’t the norm, but it’s essential to reducing a building’s environmental footprint and a key element of a unique energy challenge under way in the Greater Toronto Area called Race to Reduce.

Take the downtown Royal Bank Plaza South Tower. To cut needless lighting on the seventh floor, landlord Oxford Properties agreed to match energy savings with a donation to tenant Royal Bank of Canada’s charity trust. The 15-day pilot project delivered a 40-per-cent reduction in power consumption through measures such as turning lights off four hours earlier on weekdays.

“It’s a theme for so much of what is going on in the environmental area – that we need a new way of collaborating,” said Linda Mantia, RBC’s chief procurement officer. “The landlord can’t solve the problem on their own and the tenant can’t solve the problem on their own.”

Race to Reduce is the brainchild of CivicAction, a diverse alliance that includes business and labour leaders, academics and workers in the non-profit sector. Launched this year, the contest has attracted 74 major landlords and tenants. Their buildings represent 45 million square feet of office space – about 22 per cent of the Toronto region’s commercial office stock.

The landlords and tenants have committed to reducing their collective energy consumption 10 per cent by 2014, which will result in fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. Commercial office buildings consume 37 per cent of the GTA’s electricity and 17 per cent of the natural gas, accounting for about two-tenths of overall carbon emissions in the region.

The benefit to the bottom line is also expected to be substantial: $18-million in energy savings between now and 2014 and $9-million annually after that.

Awards will be handed out Nov. 30 to acknowledge significant energy gains made under Race to Reduce. Ms. Mantia, co-chairwoman of CivicAction’s Greening Greater Toronto initiative, hopes the roster of landlords and tenants continues to grow.

The Greening Greater Toronto group is already examining what other environmental shortcomings could be tackled in office buildings and whether a similar program could be established in other cities.