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November 27, 2018

How a century-old idea is heating and cooling new communities in Toronto

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Toronto is tapping into the city’s hot real estate market to bring back an old concept to heat and cool buildings and homes downtown using new technology.

It’s called “district energy” — using one energy source to power an entire neighbourhood or community.

Fernando Carou, manager of community energy initiatives at the City of Toronto, describes it as being similar to public transit, but for buildings and homes.

“On the transportation side we want to get rid of the single occupant car, so, think of their single occupant car as the unconnected building,” Carou told CBC Toronto.

“We want to get the benefits of network, which you don’t have if you’re just an island,” he said.

He adds that the concept of district energy has been around in Toronto for more than 100 years as clusters of downtown hospitals, government buildings and the University of Toronto campus were all heated by the same power plant.

“Back then, coal was used to make steam at a central location, but then oil and natural gas replaced coal to heat buildings,” said Carou. “The new large buildings moved away from the district model.”

The revitalization of Regent Park, along with projects in places like Markham and Enwave’s deep water cooling system for buildings downtown, have been a turning point for district energy, said Carou.

“Regent Park is the largest social housing project in Canada. When it was redeveloped it made sense to use district energy to heat and cool the homes,” he said, adding that for building clusters, a central plant for heating and cooling is more convenient and economical.

So, at the corner of Sackville Street and Dundas Street E., on the first and second parking levels of a 22-storey building, gas powered hot water boilers for heating and hot water and chillers for air conditioning in the summer were installed.

Sureya Ibrahim, who lives in Regent Park and works at the community centre, says few people even know that the facility even exists.

Keep reading on CBC News


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