Do we need more EV charging stations?

Normally we talk about cycling, walking and TTC, but sometimes we think inside the car, especially an electric car. Before we go any further, can you answer 3 questions about electric vehicles?

Done the survey? Thanks! For more on EV’s, see Chad’s test drive and write-up.







You down with DCV at KDT? Yeah you know me!

Whether you want to send a car to space or implement an energy project, you must measure and track results! One of the biggest things we do here at the Energy and Environment team is to measure and track project results because it gives us real world information that we can use to accurately evaluate similar projects in the future. This post is about the recently completed demand controlled ventilation (DCV) project at the Krembil Discovery Tower (KDT). This project follows in the footsteps of similar projects that we worked on with UHN Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (PMCRT). Since we had such good proof of concept results from PMCRT, it made for a much easier decision to proceed with the project at KDT. Let’s take a look at the project and results!

Here’s a preview of the savings for those that don’t have time for all the details:

  • Electricity Demand Savings: 310.6 kW (equivalent to about 630 window AC units)
  • Electricity Consumption Savings: 1,433,353 kWh (equivalent to 161 typical Canadian houses annual consumption)
  • Natural Gas Savings: 418,343 cubic meters (794 tons of CO2, equivalent to taking 169 cars off the road)
  • Utility Cost Savings: $241,337

Krembil Discovery Tower (Image Source)


KDT is a world class research centre with a wide array of ground breaking research being conducted in various fields of neuroscience. The 9-storey building has 5 full floors of dedicated research space supporting more than 150 neuroscience specialists in their research.

Unfortunately for our utility bills, laboratory spaces are well known to be energy hogs. Designers often design lab spaces based on the worst case scenario of a chemical spill in the space. On these rare occasions, air needs to be circulated rapidly in order to clear any hazardous substances from the air. To cover these conditions, designers typically specify a very high air change rate up to 10-12 air changes per hour. This means the entire air volume of the space is being changed over every 5 minutes! All that air needs to be heated and cooled, leading to astronomical utility costs.

KDT was designed with many energy efficient features and, in fact achieved LEED Silver Certification, but due to difficulties encountered during commissioning many of the features were not functioning optimally. Here is a point form run down of some of the difficulties encountered:

  • Office spaces adjacent to the lab spaces were designed for variable air volume to save energy
  • However, due to the high air change rate in the labs, the air balancer was unable to balance the building pressurization when the office air handling units (AHUs) ramped down to lower flows
  • As a result, the office areas had to be operated at full flow all the time in order to maintain adequate relative space pressurization and separation of air flows
  • With all AHUs running full out 24/7 the building’s energy performance was not as good as it could be

DCV Project

This brings us to the Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) retrofit project, which has helped to solve all of these issues. Similarly to the DCV project at PMCRT, UHN worked with Airgenuity to install air quality sensor technology throughout the laboratory spaces. Sensors were installed in mechanical spaces for easy maintenance, with air sampling connections extending to each space. The sensor suite cycles through all the spaces, sampling the air and testing for any contaminants. Each space is tested a minimum of once every 10 minutes. Information from the sensor suites is fed to KDT’s building automation system, giving us a real-time space by space snapshot of the air quality throughout all of the labs in the building.


Example of a sensor suite with vacuum pumps to draw air from the lab spaces

With this key information related to air quality available, we no longer have to circulate air as if a chemical spill is continuously occurring. New control strategies have been put in place to provide 3 air changes per hour during high occupancy business hours and 2 air changes at night during low occupancy hours. These are typical air change rates for comfort and safety in a working environment. Whenever an air quality contamination is detected, the related AHU ramps up to full purge mode of 12 air changes per hour until the air is proved to be clean. Considering spills happen very rarely, the savings from this new operation have been fantastic.

Another key benefit of this project is that it helped to alleviate the commissioning problems listed in the background section above. With the laboratories operating at a lower air change rate, it became possible to do proper air balancing of the office side of the building. All of the local controls in the office spaces were enabled to allow the variable flow system to operate as intended, leading to even greater savings.

The fume hood exhaust system was also included as part of this retrofit. This portion of the project is very similar to the exhaust fan retrofit at PMCRT, so I will refer you to my previous blog post for more info on that aspect of the project.

Energy Savings

Now, to the good stuff! As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the energy and environment team is all about monitoring and verifying savings so that we know if the project actually did what we thought. In this project, we installed multiple submeters on AHUs and central plant cooling equipment. We monitored all of these for at least 10 months both before and after the project to generate baseline consumption numbers and post retrofit numbers. The electricity savings were so large that they actually showed up on the main building electric meter showing that we saved 10% of the electricity used in the entire building! Huge gas savings were also achieved because the lower air volumes mean we are doing much less air heating.

Electricity Trend

Post-Retrofit energy consumption consistently lower than baseline

Now for the numbers:

Without the support of incentive programs from Toronto Hydro/IESO and Enbridge this project wouldn’t have been possible. These programs contributed over $300,000 to the funding of the project and shows the strong commitment both organizations have towards energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions. Special thanks to Jana Jedlovska of Toronto Hydro and Matt Cannon of Enbridge for their support with the applications.

Thanks also to Airgenuity for the design/implementation of the project, as well as Ian McDermott’s UHN Research project management team and Rick Ysidron’s facilities team for all their hard work and support during the project. We are collaborating on many new energy savings projects every day!

So I’ll ask again, who’s down with DCV at KDT!? Every last laboratory!

Platinum Win! just in time for Carpool Week

BikeRacksElizTGH-JustinJoannaMeganWhen it comes to awards, what’s better than gold? Platinum! Happy to announce that for the first time ever, UHN won the Smart Commute PLATINUM Workplace designation, the highest mark in Metrolinx’s program.

How? By the collective action of staff  making their commute to work a little more green. They walked, biked, carpooled and took public transit instead of driving alone.

How else? UHN made that possible by investing in bike parking, running a TTC VIP program, investing in Smart Commute membership leads to the ridesharing app to connect carpoolers, and lots more

How Green are UHN’s commuters?

  • 2,407 staff members sign up for monthly TTC VIP passes
  • 1,198 bicycle parking spaces are used throughout UHN’s sites
  • 700 Bicycle User Group members
  • Some carpool-only spots in staff parking lots
  • An online carpool matching resource links staff who want to share a ride
  • UHN-operated shuttle buses connect staff and patients between sites

As part of my role, I am lucky enough to get to champion sustainable transportation at UHN. This is one of my favorite areas as it’s where greenness and wellness meet. By participating in sustainable forms of transportation, we help unsnarl our city, clean the air and make the streets a little safer for all types of transportation. Not to sound too corny, but this helps our patients, our communities, and ourselves.


As luck would have it, this win coincides nicely with Carpool Week. Some details on that below:

CARPOOL WEEK Contest period Jan. 29 to Feb. 11, 2018

Use the Smart Commute tool ​ to find a carpool partner and to log carpool trips.

Staff who log a carpool trip between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11 have a chance to win a $500 VIA Rail travel voucher! Sweet! Staff can also use this tool to for other types of sustainable transportation, truly refreshing their A to B.


For related news, check out TEAM EFFORT NETS UHN SMART COMMUTE PLATINUM on the UHN webpage.

Ride and carpool on!




What you said … Best of Intentions 2018

With the first month of 2018 more than 2/3rds done (I know, right!), we’re checking in on those New Years Resolutions while they’re still semi-fresh. We asked a few weeks ago what your best of intentions were, and are pleased to see your answers. From lowest to highest, let’s see what you plan to do…

18. Tied: “I will fix my basement and make it less drafty”, and “Use transit instead of car to get to work”.

Thankfully, between Save ON Energy rebates and Energy Star appliances, there’s lots of energy savings beyond the lightswitch.

For transit in the GTA, the faster King Street car and the new Presto integrated fare  make riding the better way.

17.  I will bring a suitcase of medical supplies to a needy country via Not Just Tourists next time I travel

While the weather outside is frightful (sorry, holiday earworm), a vacation sure looks good. And it will feel even better if you bring medical supplies along with your sunglasses. For those that said YES here, let us know how it goes.

16. I will switch to an electric or hybrid car or no car at all

The future (and present) is electric. Test drive a bunch of different brands of EVs at the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre. Got range anxiety? Ontario just announced grants to expand EV charging station grid. Share the ride with a carpool, and of course, not driving is the greenest commute of all.

15. I will install/program a smart thermostat to save on heating/cooling

Loving those Save ON Energy rebates, including $100 off a smart thermostat!

14. I will repair my appliances, clothes and stuff that’s broken

If you are not the handiest or craftiest, there are Repair Cafés throughout Toronto and around the world.

13. I will grow some veggies and fruits, (doesn’t get more local than that)

Check out last year’s progress with the Bickle GROW garden, aka Garden of Eatin’. It’s soon time to start those seeds.

12. I will lug a mug to the coffee shop (and grab my discount for doing it)

If the waste from your daily habit is getting you down, it’s pretty easy to wake up and smell the coffee. Most places give anywhere from 10 – 25 cents for your efforts.

11. I will use antibiotics only when medically necessary, and if I buy meat, it will be antibiotic-free

Nearly 80% of antibiotics are sold for agricultural use in animals, yikes! If we overuse these in prescriptions and on our plates, we may enter a post-antibiotic era where a simple infection can be lethal.10. I will walk and bike to work/errands more

The solution to traffic congestion, air pollution, personal fitness and wellness is right there at the bottom of our legs.

9. I will give more to charity and/or volunteer my time

The more we give or help, the happier we feel. It’s like a happy karmic boomerang.

8. I will limit my screen time

By definition, this is a blog is online, so you are excused from this one until you get to the end. That said, happiness really does exist IRL.

7. I will lose weight

I’m pleased to see this one at #7 and not #1, as there are so many other ways to turn over a new leaf that don’t involve a scale. Speaking of 7, the best nutritional advice is still Michael Pollan’s 7 words … “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.

6. I will recycle more (blue bin and ewaste, batteries etc.)

Yes! Sounds good. For more on the how and why, see this deep dive on the subject.

5. I will spend more time with family and friends

We humans are all social animals. This pairs nicely with #8, as a little less screen time leaves more family and friends time.

4. I will exercise regularly, especially outside in nature

Exercise and ecotherapy, just spending time outside in nature, is a real pick-me-up. Soon your doctor may write a prescription to take 2 trees and call me in the morning

3. I will eat more veggies and fruits, especially the local ones

This is a perfect accompaniment to #7, #11 and #13. Need help? Check out local farmers markets.

2. I will always turn off the lights when I leave an empty room

Thrilled this one made it so close to the top! Simple, good energy-saving behaviours make a huuuuge difference at work and at home.

Turning Off Lights & Computers. EarthWeek 2014

1. I will organize my closet and donate old clothes, toys, stuff

Like the Stop, Drop & Swap event at Research, this kind of reuse is even better than recycling! It’s like giving a whole new life to your stuff and saves sourceing new materials to make that stuff. Trash to Treasure is a way better model than the  disposable one.

I hope you have all the success in the world with each and every one of these. May next year’s resolution be to just keep on keeping on.



Once Upon A Time – Talkin’ Trash, New Year 2018

One of the benefits of getting older (aside from the abundance of reading glasses in a seemingly endless variety of styles and colours…not!) is that if one pays enough attention along the way, one just might learn something.  And one thing I’ve learned while studiously avoiding eye contact with the reading glass displays that seem to inhabit every single checkout line in the city…is that stories are important.

Stories are how we express ourselves, how we learn, how we relate to others, how we empathize and share…all bundled up in a package that, at a minimum, hopefully entertains, but at its best inspires and motivates.  And the beauty of stories is that even tales of ordinary people trying to do mostly ordinary (though sometimes amazing) things under mostly ordinary (though sometimes extraordinary) circumstances can make the world a better place.

Like a stand-up comedian telling of his everyday ups-and-downs in a way that can be simultaneously funny and poignant… sometimes without a single word being uttered…

Continue reading

Best of Intentions for 2018

image credit:

Just as it’s impossible to end a year without a “Best-Of” list, it would feel equally strange to begin a new year without at least a small self-improvement proclamation (aka Resolution). And if ever there were a need for a fresh start, 2018 is it :). Luckily, that is what New Year’s is all about. We’ve gathered 18 ideas (cuz 2018), some green and some generic, and would love to know what you plan to do. Pick as many as you’d like, then click the yellow “vote” button at the end to see results …

Next week, we’ll see what you plan to do. Whatever it is, we’re with you on this!

Top of the Pops for 2017

Top of the Pops for 2017

Before we can look forward to the new year, it’s a right of passage to take a good, solid look back. Through the power of clicks, you sent these stories to the top. And since we don’t boost our posts, it’s all 100% organic information. Rather than going just by the numbers, let’s look at what’s fresh in each season…

Winter Tales:


Ashwati channels her inner paranoid parrot for pollution prevention, 1 chemical at a time.


Chad chats about the electric vehicles, and how/why that’s a good thing.


Look who’s on the Green Wall of Fame!

Spring Stories:


UHN Light Switch Plate Design Contest: clever ways to conserve energy


Snake Plant

The indoor environment affects your health, here’s what you can do about it.


Allan shows how alarming the fault detection system can be

Summer Scoop:


Mike takes a Megabyte out of our Energy Bills!


The Garden of Eatin’ really GROWS at Bickle Centre

opGreen-Jennifer and Jessica

Jessica shares 4 Lessons Learned with Operation Green


My deep dive into all the crazy waste streams (no, not literally) and why recycling rules aren’t the same everywhere.


outside before retrofit

Outdoor Fixtures before Songyang gets the lights to shine only when needed

Fall Facts & Fiction:


I Want To Ride My Bicycle (To Work): Ed’s Back To School Mid Year’s Resolution


Amanda gains newfound respect for farmers with Garden Rehab On Wheels

And though we did this list by the seasons, here’s a perfect story to end on…


And the Interhospital Waste Reduction Challenge winner is…

And that’s all folks! Wishing you all a greener 2018.