Can U Dig it?

In the lush and earthy corners of UHN, we find some spectacular gardens.

Let’s start in the west with GROW at Bickle Centre, aka, Garden Rehab on Wheels, or Garden of Eatin’. Thanks so much to Amanda Beales for leading this team through it’s 3rd fantastic season. Each year, it expands and improves.


Staff Salad Potluck 2018

This season, the team built a second in-ground patch for plants too big for the boxes. They grew a watermelon  … a huge hit with the patient garden group … and are growing some pumpkins (carving contest tba)! A patient’s family member walked by all the burgeoning veggies the other day and commented “this is better than Longos”.

Patients at Bickle Centre tend to the garden as part of their therapy. According to one patient, “I love being part of the garden group. I get to get outside, see plants, and taste some fresh vegetables…. What more could I want?”. Another noted honestly that “It helps fight the boredom” (I hear you). One +80 year old patient remarked with deep surprise:

“I never knew that’s how that grew!”.



This year, the GROW team decided to get creative and tried growing a cucamelon. No, I’ve never heard of that either, but apparently it’s the size of a grape, looks like a watermelon, and tastes like a cucumber!!

We’ll travel east to get the The UHN Real Food Garden, right near Toronto Western Hospital. Here, Sophia, Jim, Geremy, Rachel and Elise have been sowing and growing as a mini but mighty team. Jim reported that after he cut through the jungle of weeds, “there are some nice tomatoes and basil plants under there … for a nice sandwich on Portuguese buns for one of the Dundas St. bakeries.”garden-1

Now we’ll travel northeast to get to Lyndhurst, where they have had a raised-bed garden for many years. Their focus in more on flowers and herbs over food, but these gorgeous marigolds look good enough to eat! Note the special long-handled tools perfect for using from a wheelchair!garden-lyndhurst 2018

Thanks Nicole Leung, recreation therapist for bringing her patients outside for the best kind of therapy (IMHO) and for sending these beautiful and lucious photos from Lyndhurst…

If this is your jam (or jelly), you may be interested in 2 events by our friends at NOURISH, both on Monday September 10th:

  1. Connecting Food & Health Care: Lessons From Canada, US & Denmark: 12 – 1:30 pm, LKSKI-SMH, 209 Victoria St. room 211
  2. Food on the Public Plate: Lessons from Canada, US & Denmark: 4:30-6:30 pm, MaRS 101 College St. room CR2



It’s easy and free registration (and they had me at “light refreshments will be served”).

For more about Gardens at UHN, see




A Free Steam Room Is Gone From TWH, But No Regrets

We had a secret steam room at Toronto Western Hospital.  If you knew where it was you could drop by and enjoy it, free of charge.  This place was hidden somewhere in the underground tunnel.  The heat was free from our high pressure steam and condensate pipes between the boiler plant and the hospital.  The temperature in this area was over 40°C (104°F) year around.  Most of the pipes were insulated, however,  there were still many exposed hot surfaces,  such as pipe hangers, anchors, supports, valves, condensate pumps, etc.  Due to the temperature difference between the high pressure steam (170°C or 338°F) and space, the heat loss was nonstop.

Steam RoomFigure 1: A secret steam room hidden at TWH.

Well, every cloud has a silver lining and this is how we got a free steam room.  This hot spot is hard not to notice.  The solution in the past was to remove the heat without touching the heat source.  People designed a ventilation system to draw fresh air from outside through 2 louvres and fresh air shaft,  then exhaust the hot air.

Later, when the New East Wing was constructed, the intake louvres and shaft were buried since they were right under the proposed building, so this place got hot quickly for almost 15 years.  Because of complaints, facilities management team installed 2 local recirculation fans, but they didn’t work well.  Without incoming fresh air, the heat had nowhere to go.

before after 1Figure 2: Infrared photo of same pipe hanger before and after removable jacket was installed.

With the help of our infrared camera,  we easily identified those hot spots. To fix them, we  added insulation.  Two types of insulation were used for different reasons: 

  • Permanent fibreglass insulation for those pipe racks, anchors, etc. which do not require regular maintenance and service work.
  • Removable jackets for other areas like valves, pumps, hangers and supports. The jackets have durable fibreglass cloth cover with Velcro fasteners and they can be removed and reinstalled quickly and easily for equipment service. 

before after 2Figure 3: Infrared photo of same pipe rack before and after permanent insulation was installed.

Even in the middle of the installation, people started to notice the temperature difference.  Once the job was done, the space temperature went back to normal and we don’t even need those 2 local recirculation fans any more.

With this project, we installed insulation at about 160 spots. Some of them are only as big as a CD (for those that remember what CDs are).  We will save about $5,700 of natural gas annually, which is equivalent of 38 metric tons of CO2 emission, or 8.3 cars removed from streets. 

Looking at the Past and Future: A Student’s Present to You

Hello everyone! My name is Kyle and I am a fourth year student at UofT, studying Environmental Health, Environmental Ethics, and Bioethics. Now that my time working as a student intern with the Energy and Environment team is coming to a close, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned over the past few months, as well as provide suggestions for making the most out of the final weeks of summer.

Looking at the past:Image result for recycling coffee pods
Putting Garbage in the Right Place: During my internship, I worked on different projects, such as the new employee orientation pages for the energy and environment team. This helped me brush up on what exactly goes into green bins, blue bins, and garbage bins. Now on the outside this may seem fairly simple, but there can be times when we just aren’t completely sure if something can be recycled or thrown in the garbage. For instance, while coffee pods may appear to be recyclable if cleaned properly, the City of Toronto considers them to be garbage since not enough people properly clean the pods before recycling (More here). So if you want to be a coffee eco-hero and make a difference, try using compostable coffee pods, or reusable coffee pods. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference in the long run.

Products and Their Safety: I also worked on completing the pollution prevention plan. Essentially, I looked at the chemical components of products that departments would use, and determined if any of the components of the products were potentially hazardous by looking at five different policies. These polices cover the national level, provincial level, municipal level, polices at UHN, and even a policy from California (Proposition 65). It was a tedious (but no where near as tedious as writing a 20 page report for school) but rewarding job that could be related to personal life. We use various products every day for various things, but we don’t always check to see if it is truly safe or environmentally friendly (at least it’s not something I typically lose sleep over). So while you may not want to look over five different policies to determine if your general purpose cleaner is safe, it may be worth looking over at least one or two, just make sure you’re not using anything that could be hazardous. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Looking into the future:
With only one more month of summer left, I thought it would be helpful to suggest a few things we all can do to enjoy the final weeks of summer and keep the environment in mind.

Get out and enjoy Toronto! 
In such a busy city, there’s no shortage of things that you can do. Allan Gardens Conservatory is a wonderful spot to spend with family and friends when the weather is too hot or too rainy (and lately we’ve had a lot of those days). You’ll get to see plant life that you may have never seen before, which may just inspire you to get a plant for yourself. For the days with perfect weather, Toronto has many parks, such as High Park, to enjoy a nice relaxing picnic. There’s nothing like a little green and sunlight to brighten up your day!

Related imageRelated image




Plant life at Allan Gardens Conservatory


UHN also has many gardens that we all can take advantage of before the cold weather comes. There’s a beautiful rooftop garden at TRI – University Centre, a wheelchair accessible garden at TRI – Bickle Centre, and the UHN Real Food Garden. (Read more here!)

Bike or walk when you can! 
The good weather will only stick around for so long before we (and by we I definitely mean me) start complaining about the cold temperatures and snow. I for one enjoy not having to wear a winter jacket wherever I go. There’s so much to see and enjoy in a big city like Toronto, so walking and biking around Toronto will not only allow you to see what Toronto has to offer, but will also provide you with some free exercise. It’s a win win situation! (Want to see more about biking? Read more here! Read even more here!)

Toronto, Bike, Flatiron, Street, Snow, Winter, Sky

And with that, my time with the Energy and Environment team has come to an end. It’s been a fantastic experience the last few months, and I’m grateful I got the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people!

UHN Cost Savings Analysizer

First off, congrats to the energy team Ed, Lisa, Songyang, Allan, and the recently departed Chad on saving almost $14M cumulatively since the start of the energy manager program at UHN! And now, some background information on how I came up with this number. It started with a question:

“If we are doing so much energy management, why are the bills still higher!?”

This question is a common one faced by many energy managers. There are numerous reasons why utility bills could continue to rise despite energy efficiency improvements, including rate escalation, weather variability, building expansions, space use changes, equipment degradation, and more.

The key answer to this question is actually another question – “How much would we be spending without energy management?” The new VP of our department, Ron Swail, challenged me to answer this question when he first came on board at UHN.

In order to do this, I built a weather regression model for each UHN site based on past weather and utility consumption data from before the first energy manager was hired at UHN. Weather regression correlates past weather with past energy consumption in a “baseline” formula to predict future energy consumption under different weather conditions (for example, during a hotter summer more electricity will be consumed for air conditioning). Thankfully, our fearless leader Ed Rubinstein has been keeping detailed utility and weather records for many years while he was developing the energy management program at UHN.

We also have records of past building expansions and renovations and estimations of their energy impacts. Where significant impacts occurred (ie large increase to building floor area), an adjustment is added to the baseline based on estimated/measured increase in energy consumption.

Now that we have a formula to calculate our expected energy consumption, we can apply the current utility rates to figure out what the cost would be. I conducted this analysis for each site and added them all up to come up with the following chart for all of UHN:

Cost Savings

Although actual costs (blue line) continued to rise until 2017, we can see that our “business as usual” cost (red line) was still significantly higher. The green area in between represents the costs savings with the green bar graph helping to visualize the same numbers. Did I mention that since UHN hired its first energy manager, we have saved almost 14 million dollars!!!!

To give you an idea of the cost escalation of utilities, I produced the same graph based only on actual energy consumption:

GJ Savings

To produce this graph I converted all of our energy consumption (kWh, m3 gas, ton-hours cooling, lbs steam) to a common unit of energy – the gigajoule (GJ). In 2013 and 2014, our expected energy consumption increased significantly due to addition of buildings (KDT) and weather effects. However, our actual consumption goes up much less than the baseline, meaning our energy efficiency projects are working and making our buildings more efficient. In 2016 and 2017 our expected consumption decreases, likely due to the cool summers requiring less electricity for air conditioning (I’m guessing this trend will reverse for 2018!). Note that in 2015 and 2016, our actual energy consumption went down while our costs went up!

This type of analysis is extremely useful for explaining the value of energy management to higher level and non-technical leaders in your organization. With a more accurate representation of just how much energy managers are contributing to cost savings, leaders can make more informed decisions on project priorities and budget allocations.

How did we achieve these savings? That’s a question for another blog here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The “Mug-nificent” DMOH Green Squad!

DMOH Green Squad L – R : Theresa Moonsammy; Katty MacLean; Nancy Vukovic; Jennifer Ryan; Erin Grissman; Helen Borowski; James Austin (Manager DMOH)

Not to worry our friends in Infection Prevention and Control, but Continue reading

Listen…do you want to know a (hazardous waste disposal) secret? – Talkin’ Trash, July 2018

(apologies to Dr. M and practitioners of the Dental Sciences everywhere…it’s not you, it’s me…really)

In general, when it comes to knowing and not knowing stuff, most people would rather be in the know…however, there are more than a few things that…well, nobody really needs to know about…if you know what I mean.

Continue reading

Deeply Cool

Deeply Cool

During these dog days of summer, it’s more important than ever to stay cool. If you’ve followed this blog, you know air conditioning is one of the most energy-intense parts of a building, with lighting paling (dimming?) by comparison. Continue reading