840 Howe – Getting Ready for Net Zero

Vancouver, British Columbia

In early 2022, GWLRA announced that we would be doing our part to help build a carbon neutral economy by moving towards net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. However, for the world to effectively meet this ambitious goal, action is needed now to make substantive GHG emission reductions before 2030.

At 840 Howe in Vancouver, our property and asset management teams seized a one-in-twenty year opportunity to make these reductions in support of our clients: the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and the Canadian Real Estate Investment Fund No. 1 (CREIF).

With 840 Howe’s conventional gas-fired boilers reaching end-of-life, GWLRA’s property management team engaged a consultant to investigate the electrification of the heating plant and make-up air (MUA) unit at the building. Since electricity generated in British Columbia emits much fewer GHG emissions than the combustion of natural gas, this conversion can substantially reduce emissions at the property.

To work around some of the logistical challenges of the electrification, the team took advantage of 840 Howe’s need for simultaneous heating and cooling throughout the winter to retrofit the building with a heat recovery chiller and replace two of the three natural gas-fired boilers with electric boilers.

The combination of upgrades involved in this retrofit is expected to reduce natural gas consumption by almost 60% and cooling tower water use by about 25%, while increasing baseline electricity use by only 3%. This will result in a reduction in GHG emissions of 110 tonnes CO2e/yr, with estimated lifetime savings of 5,277 tonnes CO2e. This is the equivalent of removing 1,148 passenger cars from the road for one year.

While there is an incremental cost to these changes compared with a like-for-like boiler replacement, it helps future-proof the building against carbon taxes, variability in natural gas pricing, and possible regulatory requirements. Work is now underway to complete these retrofits over the next five years.

While this measure is intended to be a behind-the-scenes upgrade that is imperceivable by occupants, it nonetheless makes a meaningful contribution to GWLRA’s net-zero commitment.