Canada's Condominium Magazine
A new Ontario government regulation requiring large, privately owned buildings, including condominiums, to report their energy and water consumption, is now in force. Ontario Regulation 20/17, known as the Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWBR) initiative, applies to buildings that are 50,000 square feet and larger. In addition to energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions must be reported, as well as the buildings’ gross floor area. Building owners can access the required energy and water information through their utility. The government says that reporting under the EWRB regulation will cost building owners little, in some cases as little as an hour’s work if all the data are available.
Big buildings are reported to be responsible for nearly a fifth of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions through energy and water use. Without detailed benchmarking information about each building’s performance, however, it is difficult for owners to reduce those emissions.
The purpose of the new regulation is to give building owners a way to measure and track their energy performance, and to give property and financial markets the information they need to compare that performance. This information, the government says, is valuable because it allows investors to properly value efficient buildings for investment purposes. Energy-efficient commercial buildings have been shown to rent for more per square foot as tenants see energy efficiency as a sign of good management. A Natural Resources Canada report also found that energy-efficient buildings could command as much as a 13 per cent higher selling price.
The method for reporting to the Ministry of Energy will be the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, an online tool developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and now shared with and managed by Natural Resources Canada.
The first reporting deadline, covering the year 2017, is July 1, 2018, for buildings of more than 250,000 square feet. Buildings of 1,000.000 square feet or more have until the following July 1; smaller buildings of 50,000 square feet or more have until 2020. Multi-unit residential buildings are not required to report in the first year.
The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Toronto has said it is “strongly” supportive of the “philosophy” of energy reporting and benchmarking , provided that is not used as a way of “shaming” weaker performers. For the policy to work, BOMA maintains, regulators must understand the various nuances that exist with the commercial real estate industry with respect to how buildings are managed and operated.
Of particular concern to BOMA are multi-unit residential buildings (MURB) which defy straightforward comparisons, given the role of tenants’ behaviour, which can either support or subvert conservation efforts.
While some MURBs have central air conditioning, many do not. Some have pools, fitness centres or retail areas, all of which result in a higher energy intensity for the building compared to a building without these features. It is also more challenging to implement energy retrofits under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act than in other asset classes, according to BOMA.