As reclads, retrofits, and other such building upgrades unfold at major properties across Toronto, improving the efficiency of existing commercial buildings to meet changing tenant needs, attitudes, and cost targets is front of mind for many property owners. One such building familiar to locals and tourists alike to undergo recent upgrades is the sign-covered 10 Dundas East building, which opened in 2007 opposite Yonge-Dundas Square. As the building's uses and tenants have morphed somewhat over the years, so too has technology, leading to a re-evaluation by management of its energy performance a few years back.

ESC Automation of Toronto was signed on by property manager BentallGreenOak to find ways to modernize efficiency features for the property with an overall goal to maximize energy savings, reduce the building's carbon footprint, enhance operational efficiencies, and enhance the comfort of tenants and occupants. 

10 Dundas East, image courtesy of ESC Automation

Working with teams from ESC Automation—a building system integrator acquired by Ainsworth in 2019—the process was implemented largely by identifying low-cost/no-cost adjustments that could reduce the building's carbon footprint and the need for maintenance. Over the course of approximately 38 months, retrofits were able to save 5421 megawatt hours in total energy for an overall 10% energy use reduction and reduce CO₂ emissions by 3,832,923 kilograms.

To put that into perspective, the 38-month process resulted in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 15.3 million kilometres/9.5 million miles driven by average passenger vehicles, and that CO₂ emission reduction represents 4.2 million pounds of coal not burned. The amount of carbon sequestered by the project is equivalent to that of over 63,000 seedlings growing into trees over a ten-year period.

The savings were achieved by leveraging a comprehensive AI building analytics solution that integrates platforms for energy information, fault detection, and diagnostics. The hub performs automated calculations and complex data analysis much faster than humans are capable of, and provides results that can then be passed on to experienced engineers and technicians for further analysis. 

Ari Dimitraklas, Director of Technical Services Retail Services at BentallGreenOak, states that the company's goal “was to identify operational deficiencies and optimize them as quickly as possible to drastically reduce our maintenance costs, energy spending, and carbon footprint, while maintaining the high level of occupant comfort required for our tenants and customers. Working with ESC Automation, we were able to apply their analytics platform to identify areas of improvement immediately."

Within three months of implementation, the system had gathered enough data for analysis, providing important insights. Many of these informed fixes where something as simple as an adjustment in building operation or system configuration resulted in a significant reduction in energy consumption, often at little or no cost.

“Once we starting analyzing the available data, it was evident there were opportunities for enormous energy savings that required low cost/no cost resolutions, mostly associated with Building Automation programming and optimization,” said Chris Bachour, Data Analytics Manager at ESC Automation. "This led to an accelerated Return on Investment and almost instantaneous operational improvement. These improvements were also measured and verified through utility costs and customer complaint reduction.”

One such efficiency was found through identifying that building equipment that was left running outside of normal operating hours. Another change was the implementation of constant air temperature measurements against the nearest weather station, properly calibrated to provide accurate building operation and avoid energy waste such as running heating and cooling at the same time—contrasting the industry standard of calibrating air temperature sensors only twice a year.

Data is only one facet of the operation, and methods of data collection and organization prove to be a critical factor when working to improve efficiency within a building. “Initially, when we attempted to acquire the building automation data, we found tremendous opportunities to better organize the existing data sets for improved performance," said Chris Bachour. According to Bachour, teams had to invest valuable time "to provide the most accurate analysis of the system. We partner with property managers to help them better understand the value of data integrity of their building automation system. Strengthening the accuracy of this data delivers access to fact-based knowledge and the ability to take impactful action.”

These sustainability upgrades have helped land the building honours including the 2019 and 2020 Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Building Of the Year Award in the category of Retail Building – Enclosed Under One Million Square Feet.

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