The real estate at the crossroads of energy

Guillaume Roy

Special Collaboration

March 21, 2020

L’immobilier à la croisée des énergies

Photo: Lemay
Formerly a warehouse, the Phoenix has become a model of energy efficiency with its system of heat recovery and its vegetal wall, among others.

This text is part of the special Unpointcinq

With the low cost of natural gas, many real estate developers rely on fossil fuels to heat their building, so that the emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the sector are on the rise. But maybe more for a very long time.

A hospital heated with the waste heat of an incinerator. An industrial building heritage reinvented to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 86 %. A school board that reduces subsidies by 85 %, through strategic choices. Examples of buildings with a low carbon footprint, are proliferating in Quebec. And it’s just the beginning. The real estate developers are increasingly betting on energy efficiency, the electricity, the heat recovery, or biomass, observes Stephan Gagnon, the coordinator of the service of technical support of energy Transition Québec (TEQ).

Even if, according to the latter, it is much easier to electrify buildings and transport, 51 % of the buildings in the commercial and institutional sectors were still using fossil fuels in 2014, and 41.6 % were supplied with natural gas. Their carbon footprint is even increased since 2012, reaching 4829 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2017, or 6% of the GHG emissions of the province.

“Seeing these statistics, we were disappointed that we were a major emitter of greenhouse gases,” said Mario Poirier, the former president of BOMA Québec, the largest group of owners and managers of commercial buildings in Quebec. Despite the efforts made to reduce emissions, the low cost of natural gas is attractive to many, and it is mainly the growth in the number of buildings that actually increase the carbon footprint of the industry, relativizes-t-it.

To encourage its members to act, BOMA Québec is based on the ontario program, Race to reduce , creating the Challenge of energy in 2018, in partnership with the City of Montreal, Énergir, Hydro-Québec and TEQ. The goal : create a competition to motivate the managers to reduce their energy consumption by at least 10% in four years. If 15 % of the buildings in Québec to meet this objective, the issuance of 60 000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year will be avoided. To date, 220 companies, organizations and municipalities participating in the challenge.

Heat recovery existing

“Everything starts with a good control of the energy data,” says Mario Poirier. Whereas it is necessary, according to him, ” rather keep the heat inside to heat the envelope “, several large buildings continue to cool the interior areas in the winter… while heating the outer areas.

Stéphan Gagnon quote in example the project of the future mega-hospital, the CHU de Québec, which will reduce its energy consumption by 95 % by using the steam produced by the incinerator of Quebec thanks to the construction of a subterranean line of 2.2 kilometres. “In addition, a turbine will produce a significant portion of the electricity consumed by the hospital,” says the engineer, recalling that the federal and provincial governments have launched, in December of last year, a call for proposals to invest $ 200 million by 2025 to support projects of heat recovery in Quebec.

Despite the energy needed to face the great cold winter, “one should not heat the building exclusively to the gas,” says Stéphan Gagnon, in particular because electricity is generally less expensive than natural gas during non-peak periods. There are also systems biénergie to heat the gas only, or even better, with biomass, during peak periods, does it.

Successful conversions

Often put forward, the school Board of Samaras, in the Lanaudière region, has deployed a range of solutions to reduce its fossil energy consumption by 85% since 2006. The Commission, which manages around one hundred buildings, has relied on systems of control at the cutting edge of technology, the recovery of heat, solar walls and geothermal, in addition to developing the management expertise of the energy to the internal.

In the district of Saint-Henri in Montreal, the architecture firm Lemay has repurposed an industrial building heritage, the Phoenix, become a model of energy efficiency. The old kettle on the gas has been replaced by an electrical system powered in part by 500 solar panels installed on the roof and the building is equipped with a system of intelligent energy management, which will store the heat. On a life cycle of 60 years, the project has helped to reduce GHG emissions by 86 %, compared to a similar structure. “The most important thing is that it cost the same price as a similar project “, underlines the director of sustainable strategies in Lemay, Loïc Angot. A word to the wise…

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