Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency – Volume 3, Issue 6

Volume 3, Issue 6

Benchmarking and auditing help you zero in on savings

Image of hand holding money

Building energy benchmarking is a proven strategy that can help you measure your building’s energy use. And once you start measuring your energy use, you’ll be much better able to manage it. Benchmarking will give you a sense of how your building’s performance compares to that of similar buildings, enable you to verify the effectiveness of retrofits or other initiatives, and help you track changes in your building’s performance over time. This is very powerful information, as it will enable you to determine whether investments in building upgrades are necessary and will help you prioritize which buildings are most in need of upgrades if you have multiple buildings in your portfolio.

You can get even more out of your benchmarking efforts if you pair them with energy auditing. While benchmarking gives you a picture of your building’s overall performance, energy auditing takes a more detailed look at your building’s energy-using systems. This can help you pinpoint exactly where improvements are required so that you can precisely target your efforts and get the most out of your investments. Used in tandem, energy benchmarking and energy auditing can help you take full advantage of the untapped savings potential available in your building.

To start benchmarking your building’s energy use, sign up for a free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account. Portfolio Manager is Canada’s only nationally standardized benchmarking system that uses real Canadian data from a survey conducted by Statistics Canada on NRCan’s behalf. Its interface is fully bilingual, it includes climate information from Canadian weather stations, and it offers 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores for eligible building types.

Portfolio Manager also supports a number of green building certification programs and other energy management initiatives:

  • The Canada Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings program requires eligible buildings to achieve a minimum ENERGY STAR score, and encourages all buildings to benchmark with Portfolio Manager.
  • The latest version of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada’s BOMA BEST program is being developed to closely align with definitions and requirements found in Portfolio Manager, in order to facilitate eventual data exchange between the two platforms.
  • A number of jurisdictions are considering mandatory and voluntary energy benchmarking policies and are recommending Portfolio Manager as their official reporting tool.
  • Energy challenges in Toronto (Ont.) and Richmond (B.C.) have used Portfolio Manager as their official reporting tool.

Visit our ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager access page to get started now! For more information, visit:

Sustainability in a cold climate: The Mosaic Centre proves that it can be done

The Mosaic Centre’s goals:

Net-zero: A net-zero building is one that produces as much energy as it uses.

LEED Platinum Certification: LEED is an environmental certification program for sustainable buildings. Buildings earn points in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation & design process. Platinum certification is awarded to buildings that earn the highest scores.

Living Building Challenge Petal Certification: The Living Building Challenge is a building certification program that goes beyond net zero, requiring that buildings use only the most sustainable and efficient materials, technologies and practices. To achieve full certification, buildings must meet all the requirements in all seven categories: place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. To date, only five buildings in the world have met this extremely demanding standard. Petal Certification is available to buildings that meet all requirements in at least three categories.

When the owners of Edmonton’s Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce set out to design their new building, they wanted it to be more than merely functional. They also wanted it to be a model of sustainable construction that would inspire others to follow suit. To do this, they set some aggressive goals, including net-zero energy status, LEED Platinum certification and Living Building Challenge Petal certification.

Photo of Mosaic Centre building

The Mosaic Centre has already achieved the first of those three goals, becoming not only Alberta’s first net-zero energy commercial building, but one of the few buildings in the world to achieve net-zero energy performance in a cold climate. The Centre’s applications for LEED Platinum Certification and Living Building Challenge Petal Certification are currently under review. If its Living Building Challenge application is successful, it will be the province’s first building to earn this stringent certification, and only the third in Canada.

Some of the Mosaic Centre’s high-performance features are:

  • A glulam timber structure, whose offcuts were upcycled into furniture and art for the building’s interior
  • A three-storey green wall to purify the air and moderate humidity
  • Photovoltaic solar panels covering the roof pergola and most of the south and east façades
  • Sunshades designed to remain icicle-free during the winter
  • A triple-glazed fiberglass curtainwall system
  • Geothermal heating, featuring 31 boreholes drilled 70 metres deep
  • A 26,000-litre (7,000-gallon) underground tank for storing rainwater used to irrigate gardens on the grounds and on the roof

In addition, the building features a variety of dynamic, casual meeting spaces, a restaurant that serves locally grown produce (including some from on-site gardens) and honey from a rooftop apiary, and parking for bicycles and electric cars.

For more information about the Mosaic Centre and its sustainable design features, visit:

For guidance on how you can make your own new construction project as energy efficient as possible, visit NRCan’s web pages for energy-efficient buildings:

New heat pump pre-screening tool for new buildings from CanmetENERGY

Heat pumps can be cost effective options for new buildings and major renovations, often providing significant energy performance advantages over conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. However, heat pumps are often not even considered during the design of new buildings because they are generally perceived as capital intensive, and detailed feasibility studies need to be undertaken to determine whether an investment is worthwhile.

Image of heat pump tool

This situation is compounded by the variety of heat pump systems available: even if a building engineer is prepared to conduct a feasibility study, it is simply not practical to conduct feasibility studies on all the options. Without such a study, it can be difficult to know which system is the best fit for a particular building project.


CanmetENERGY has developed a powerful screening tool to address this situation and raise the profile of heat pumps as a means of reducing energy consumption and costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. HPAC is a free software tool that provides rapid assessments of heat pump systems for a specific set of building parameters, with minimal input requirements. This means that feasibility studies can be better justified and focused on only the most promising technologies for a given project.

HPAC’s results are based on building energy models developed for eight building types:

  • hospital
  • long-term care facility
  • large office
  • small office
  • multi-unit residential building
  • school
  • small administration building
  • detention centre

Using a typical HVAC system for each building type as a reference, these models were used to assess the investment and operating costs, greenhouse gas reduction potential, net present value and simple payback period of selected heat pump systems in a variety of climate zones and using a variety of utility rates. The tool includes default values for most inputs, or users can enter their own values if they have accurate information available about their particular projects. Once HPAC has identified the most appropriate heat pump system for a building project, the engineer can better justify a detailed feasibility study that evaluates the practical limitations of the selected system and the financial parameters with better precision, allowing them to reach a go-no-go decision.

For more information and to download the tool, visit nrcan.gc.ca/energy/software-tools/17889.

OLG Casino Brantford achieves LEED Silver

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) recently announced that OLG Casino Brantford has achieved LEED Silver certification under the Canada Green Building Council’s LEED Canada for Commercial Interiors program. The Commercial Interiors program focuses on high-performance green interiors that are healthy, are less costly to operate and have a smaller environmental footprint.

OLG Casino Brantford’s recent $37.5 million renovation was designed to meet all these criteria. In addition to expanding the gaming area and modernizing the overall look and feel, the renovation also incorporated the following sustainable results:

  • Water consumption has been reduced by 49 percent.
  • Lighting power use has been reduced by 26 percent.
  • 90 percent of all appliances (excluding slot machines) are ENERGY STAR-certified.
  • Just over 11 percent of construction materials contain recycled content.
  • Almost 9 percent of construction materials are from rapidly renewable resources.

The casino is also located close to two major public transit lines, and offers secure bicycle storage and showers for employees, as well as two electric car charging stations. In addition, it has an extensive recycling program throughout the facility. Overall, since completing its renovations, OLG Casino Brantford has become one of the greenest casinos in Canada.

OLG bets on green

The Casino Brantford project is part of OLG’s Bet on Green initiative, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of OLG operations, support OLG’s efforts to become a global leader in energy-efficient gaming, and promote environmental awareness through engagement with employees, partners and customers. Through Bet on Green efforts, OLG has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by almost 16,000 tonnes over the last four years and has reduced paper use by making lottery tickets 25 percent smaller. Bet on Green has also seen the creation of Green Teams to carry out site-specific initiatives at individual facilities, and OLG participation in community green activities including Earth Hour and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

Next step: energy benchmarking

Now that the Casino Brantford renovations are complete, benchmarking the facility with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can identify the savings and ensure that its energy performance stays on track. A corporate benchmarking program is imperative to track the energy use of all its buildings and derive even greater benefit from the tool.

To learn more about OLG Casino Brantford’s renovations, Bet on Green and LEED for Commercial Interiors, visit:

To learn more about energy benchmarking and ways to make your existing building more energy efficient, visit:

Let us know what you think

Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency is published by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency and distributed monthly to 16,000 subscribers. Our goal is to deliver meaningful news and information about programs, services and events related to energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings and, as well, to share the success stories of organizations that have benefited from positive change. Help us spread the word by sending this link to your colleagues. We encourage you to subscribe to our sister publication that focuses on energy efficiency in industrial facilities, Heads Up CIPEC.

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