By Vanessa Kanji
There is a beacon of sustainability and community in North Toronto that is inspiring its neighbours and other communities to go green. The Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace is a non-profit housing project that began construction in 1992. Spearheaded by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Toronto, its focus is to use new technological developments to preserve and conserve energy for the purpose of creating greater affordability for it’s residents.
This principle of preservation and conservation is a keystone of the Ahmadiyya philosophy, faith and practice, which spans over 200 countries worldwide. It is not surprising therefore, that it was the foundation of their housing project.
When the project was first conceived, the Jamat (Jamat means community or congregation) set out to create affordable green housing for residents in north Toronto near Finch and Islington. What makes this story unique, however, is that they sought to improve architectural standards at a time when it wasn’t necessarily fashionable to do so. Conception began in 1989, and construction took only 14 months, reaching completion in 1993. The finished product was a 16 storey, 166 unit building incorporating energy efficient foundations, energy saving CFL’s and T-8, lighting, improved insulation, and the use of thermal glass, all not widely used at the time in the mass market.
Completing such a project comes at a price and the project was funded in part by voluntary contributions from the Jamat, the Ontario Government (through their “Homes Now” framework), and the Ontario Power Authority’s energy efficiency incentive programs.
The management team of Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace continues to constantly seek upgrades and updates in the name of create greater conservation and savings on behalf of it’s tenants and in the last three years, great improvements have been made in three areas: conservation of natural gas, electricity, and use of solar technology.
The first project involved reducing natural gas usage. New condenser boilers were installed replacing less efficient systems allowing the building to not only generate space heating but also recover waste heat for domestic hot water use. The upgrades have resulted in savings of more than 30% on the original consumption of natural gas because the systems are integrated and not separate anymore.
In another initiative, the community overhauled the building’s cooling systems by upgrading 250 fan coil units, resulting in a 25% reduction in electricity use. How did they do it?
They changed to Electrically Commutated Motors, installed programmable digital thermostats, and changed the air chillers in the building to smart units to increase the building operators degree of control with the “DELTA’ building automation system. What is also exciting is that they used made in Canada technology support our local economy.
The third upgrade involves the integration of solar energy technology for both electricity generation, air heating and water heating. Forty-four by 8 foot solar panels, with a design production of 10 KWH were installed. The panels produce electricity that is sold to the Ontario Power Authority through the Micro Feed-in Tariff Program (MicroFIT), which enables homeowners and businesses to sell their power at a fair fixed price through a
twenty-year contract with the government, contributing to a reduction in building operational costs.
So far 23,367KW of electricity has been generated through these panels.
The solar thermal wall portion the project pre-warms air drawn into the building reducing the need to burn natural gas in the furnace. This ‘Solar Wall’ has collected 171,482 KW equivalent of solar energy as of today. In addition twenty four solar water heating collectors have been installed on the roof to pre-heat the domestic hot water. This system has collected more than 65,000 KW equivalent of solar energy as of today.
All above upgrades were possible mainly with the SHRRP grants from the Social Housing Unit of City of Toronto. The major mechanical projects were managed with the help of Housing Services Corporation. Enbridge provided incentive grants for reducing the natural gas demand. The staff at the project worked hard for three years to complete these projects.
The first project involved reducing natural gas usage. Abode of Peace in North Toronto were able to take advantage of incentives offered by Enbridge Gas Distribution. Their Energy Solutions Consultant worked with the Abode of Peace staff throughout the project planning, inspecting building equipment and providing free technical consultation on the building equipment, the estimated gas savings, and the financial incentives available. New condenser boilers were installed replacing less efficient systems allowing the building to not only generate space heating but also recover waste heat for domestic hot water use. The savings from the upgraded mechanical equipment will benefit the Abode of Peace for many years to come.
The most recent change made at Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace, is their green wall on the south side of the building that will reduce cooling costs in the summer by absorbing the sun’s rays, improve air quality, and look beautiful!
Perhaps the most lasting impact of Ahmaddiyya Abode of Peace and its visionary community is it’s commitment to educating and empowering it’s tenants. Creating an awareness of energy consumption and sustainability is an important step in the direction of changing mass views. Tenants are invited to meetings, asked to make suggestions on further improvements and kept abreast of the buildings efficiency and savings through live feeds on monitors in the lobby. They are also encouraged to personally aid in the project through building-wide recycling composting and recycling. Youth in the community have been organized and engaged in recycling efforts and educated through ‘Green Quiz’ programs. Doing so ensures waste removal costs are kept to a minimum, reduces negative impacts on the environment all while getting everyone involved in conservation efforts.
The Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace is a testament to the vision of a community that understands that being fiscally and ecologically responsible are synonymous and that living sustainably is something that can happen now, not sometime in the future.
This Non Profit housing project has set an example in following best practices in energy savings and sustainability. Its efforts have been recognized by Ontarion Non-Profit Housing Association by “ONPHA Going Green Award 2013. This year Canadian Housing and Renewal Association has recognized Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace with “2015 CHRA Sustainability Award”.
According to the Property Manager, Mr. Karim Tahir, these mile stones have encouraged the management to further keep improving and continue their journey in the direction of energy savings and improved sustainability.
Want to learn more Ahmadiyaa Abode of Peace and their sustainable energy initiatives?
Karim Tahir the building manager along with his amazing Board of volunteer Directors from the Toronto Ahmidiyya Jamat are always happy to share their experiences and insights to help others get inspired and go green too.
Karim can be contacted at 416-748-5454 for more information.