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The Race to Reduce

By Tiffany Vong, CivicAction, Toronto

The commercial office sector has a major impact on the Toronto region’s environment. According to the Living City Report Card, office buildings account for 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the Toronto region. They consume 37% of electricity and 17% of the natural gas. This means there is a huge opportunity for improvement.

In 2009, the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance brought together dozens of leaders in the office sector from across the region, and found that one of the greatest barriers to greater energy efficiency in office buildings was the lack of communication between landlords and tenants. Working with these leaders, we developed and launched the Race to Reduce to tackle this and other barriers.

2011 Gold Participation Award winners. Photo credit: Benedict Hilliard

The Race challenges office building landlords and tenants in the Toronto region to work together to reduce their buildings’ collective energy use by at least 10% by 2014. So far, the Race has attracted more than 500 landlords and tenants in 151 buildings representing over 60 million square feet of office space – about 30% of the Toronto region’s office buildings.

Last November, sixty-eight awards were presented to buildings, landlord and tenants, recognizing exceptional achievements in Participation, Action & Innovation, and Building Performance. Winners shared inspiring stories about their collaborative approaches toward greater energy efficiency.

Here are a few examples of the significant results collaboration can bring:

Building team: The Cadillac Fairview and TD Centre Green Council won for their Occupant Engagement Program at the TD Centre, which demonstrateed a strategic approach to occupant engagement. In addressing human behavior, the team realized energy savings of 2.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) during its 2011 Energy Campaign.

Tenant: RBC has utilized many tools, technologies, and platforms to engage and empower employees. Using a grassroots approach, RBC built a diverse and dedicated team, generated awareness and understanding of the company’s impacts, and made employees a part of the process and journey.

Tenant: Stikeman Elliott’s GoingGreen program demonstrated proactive tenant leadership with employees and with their landlord GWL Realty Advisors.  The office’s light sensor installation project resulted in an annual energy savings of 450,000 kWh, and the second lighting retrofit of more than 2500 light fixtures and removal of 630 fixtures resulted in an annual savings of 350,000 kWh.

What can you do?

As a tenant, there are many simple steps you can take to begin engaging with your landlord. Here are just a few:

  • –Talk to your landlord about simple changes that can be made, such as changing your lighting schedule to reflect actual use.
  • –Host a Greening Our Workplaces workshop with your landlord and other tenants in your building. To get started, contact tiffany.vong@civicaction.ca.
  • –Explore the Tenant’s Guide to Landlord/Tenant Engagement for more ideas and steps to develop and implement a plan.

Get inspired!

On November 28, Race to Reduce participants will be celebrating this year’s successes at our second annual awards reception in Toronto.  For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Race to Reduce is an initiative of CivicAction’s Greening Greater Toronto.