The Toronto School District Energy Efficiency Project is renovating schools for climate action
October 15, 2022
Over the decades, schools have been the breeding ground for environmental change. In recent years, climate action protests have been seen in the younger generation. Much of this has likely been inspired by the Fridays for the Future protests catalyzed by Greta Thunberg, whose climate protests began outside of her school. Fridays for the Future is now a recognized movement amongst the youth that inspires others to take climate action. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) would therefore also be involved in climate action. The TDSB serves over 245,000 students across 600 schools making them the largest school board in Canada.
Starting in 2000, the TDSB began undertaking renovation projects across the district. These renovations were aimed to increase the thermal and energy efficiency of its buildings. The construction and use of buildings, whether for heating, cooling, utilities, or water heating, are responsible for 38% of carbon emissions globally. In order to reach net-zero carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that CO2 emissions from buildings, (whether in the construction or operational phases) need to fall by 50% by 2030.
Renovating buildings is an important step in reducing carbon emissions. In doing so, buildings are able to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from reconstruction. The construction industry is a significant source of carbon emissions, not only from all the heavy machinery involved, but also from the transporting of materials. Additionally, the pouring of new concrete produces large amounts of carbon dioxide. Therefore, by using existing building stock rather than creating new buildings from scratch, renovating and restoring can help pave the way to net zero. Furthermore, older buildings, built before central heating, often have greater thermal retention capacities than newer builds.
All that is to say that when the TDSB decided to renovate and retrofit the many buildings under their care, it was an important contribution to local climate efforts. The main objectives of The Toronto School District Energy Efficiency Project were as follows:
Switch Lighting — Switch the current lighting in buildings to LED lighting. The updated lighting will use significantly less energy and last longer than other alternatives. Not only that, but it will also be more cost efficient.
Upgrade HVAC — Upgrade and maintain the HVAC systems by installing a Building Automated System (BAS). The new system will regulate temperature and the building’s mechanical equipment to make use more efficient.
Upgrade Vehicles — Switch out the district’s petrol and diesel vehicles for electric ones. Additionally, maximize the use of the electric vehicles and their usual routes for more efficiency.
Replace Windows and Doors — Replace and/or renovate the windows and doors in the building. This will improve air flow around the buildings and efficiency.
Continue to Identify Opportunities for Further Improvements — Over the course of the project, the district will continue to monitor and identify opportunities for greater energy efficiency.
Here’s What’s Interesting to Us:
It’s true that construction plays a significant role in stimulating the economy and generating employment opportunities. This occurs as new projects create a demand for materials, labor, and various services. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the environmental impact of construction activities, particularly in relation to climate change. To address this issue, there is a growing emphasis on redirecting construction efforts towards improving existing buildings rather than focusing solely on new constructions. This shift in focus is a crucial step in mitigating climate change and reducing carbon emissions. This project highlights the importance of our built environment in carbon emissions. For example, the TDSB saved approximately 18,445 tonnes CO2e per year between 2014 and 2016. Although the upfront costs are a tremendous investment, the project saves both energy and money in the long run. This example serves as a practical demonstration of the positive outcomes that can be achieved by investing in retrofitting and upgrading existing structures.
Learn More About Offset Projects
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