Real estate developers and managers DREAM Unlimited has launched an ambitious initiative towards Net Zero goals. Its new program kicked-off last week with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 36 Toronto Street. The building is one of Dream’s 19 office buildings across the Greater Toronto Area and Saskatoon that will be retrofitted to be net zero by 2035, or sooner. Retrofits are urgently needed for the future of our building stock and in our collective fight against climate crisis.

Engineer Lee Hodgkinson, Head of Sustainability & Tech Services at Dream; Ehren Cory, CEO of the CIB; Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão; Gordon Wadley, COO at Dream Office REIT. Image by James Bombales

Earlier this year, Dream declared its target of achieving net zero admissions by 2035, 15 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. The program is made possible by a partnership with the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, which will provide a pivotal $136.6-million investment as part of its Commercial Building Retrofits Initiative. Dream is the first real estate company in Canada to receive funds under this Initiative, fast-tracking Dream’s decarbonization projects.

Ehren Cory, Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), and Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão joined Gordon Wadley, COO at Dream Office REIT, and Lee Hodgkinson, Head of Sustainability & Technical Services at Dream for the launch. The ribbon-cutting was held in the Toronto Street building’s mechanical room. Mechanical rooms are the engine rooms of large buildings, housing water pumps, heating, ventilation, and elevator equipment. These noisy rooms, which require significant power to operate, are where the majority of works across the program's 19 buildings will take place.

Gordon Wadley, COO at Dream Office REIT. Image by Stephanie Calvet.

Gordon Wadley remarked “Building retrofits are very complex, technical projects, involving the upgrading of existing systems – including boilers, heat pumps and cooling systems– to energy efficient ones and installing low carbon heating sources. Nearly all of this work is invisible to the naked eye as it all lies within the mechanical rooms, rooftops, basements that make up our critical infrastructure.” Once complete, the works will deliver more healthy and more resilient workplaces for the 15,000 employees who work there. These complex works are being conducted in fully occupied buildings requiring significant coordination, communication, and collaboration with tenants to allow them to stay in place and sequence the works accordingly.

According to Wadley real estate accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Responses to our climate crisis has spurred innovative solutions and partnerships and this one will create 1,500 jobs in Canada. Wadley noted the importance of developing multi-faceted approaches at speed and at scale to ensure we make the material impacts needed to support a climate resilient future.  Beyond this program, innovations are being found across existing property operations, new development planning, construction and asset management.

“The first step to reach our net zero target is to understand our existing carbon footprint, also referred to as our baseline emissions.” Image by Dream.

The 19 buildings that will be retrofitted range from boutique historical buildings to downtown high-rises, with the oldest building dating back to 1908. Eighteen of the buildings are located within the GTA, with one located in Saskatoon. This portfolio consists of

  • 80 Richmond Street
  • 67 Temperance Street W.
  • 56 Temperance Street W.
  • 350 Bay Street
  • 366 Bay Street
  • 74 Victoria Street
  • 20 Toronto Street
  • 36 Toronto Street
  • 6 Adelaide Street
  • 425 Bloor Street East
  • 438 University Street
  • 655 Bay Street
  • 2206 Eglinton Avenue E.
  • 50 Sussex Centre (50 Burnhamthorpe Road W., Mississauga)
  • 90 Sussex Centre (90 Burnhamthorpe Road W., Mississauga)
  • 10 Lower Spadina Avenue
  • 349 Carlaw Avenue
  • The Residences at Weston Common
  • Princeton Tower (Saskatoon)

Deputy Mayor and member of Toronto City Council Ana Bailão lauded this initiative, praising Dream for being “an excellent business thinker and strategist, and for its commitment to be part of the solution and a participating partner in our city's work towards net zero emissions.” Toronto’s emissions reduction target of reaching net zero by 2040 is one of the most ambitious found anywhere in North America. The city cannot do it alone. “We need visionary partners and we need business people in our city like Dream to get it done,” said Bailão.

Ehren Cory, CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank, framed this is as a call of action to others in the industry, “We hope that this is a catalyst for more… an innovative way to get these projects done. We think [of our] low-cost risk-sharing financing as an innovative tool …to do this at scale. There's no way for us to get to our climate goals without that.”

See the Dream Net Zero report here

Net Zero Roadmap Development. Image by Dream.

Dream and Government partners will also develop two of the largest net zero residential projects in Canada – Quayside in Toronto and the LeBreton Flats Library Parcel in Ottawa. These, along with Zibi (a new 34-acre waterfront community in Ottawa-Gatineau), account for over $6 billion in net zero communities within its development pipeline.

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