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Case study: Brownfield redevelopment incorporates affordable housing

Summary

An abandoned, century-old industrial facility in midtown Toronto is transformed into a vibrant, sustainable community hub that includes 26 units of affordable housing. Artscape Wychwood Barns is the first designated heritage site in Canada to achieve LEED® Gold certification.

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Project

Artscape Wychwood Barns

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Developer/Operator

Artscape (50-year lease)

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Owner

City of Toronto

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Affordable Housing

26 units

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Construction

2007–2008

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Cost

$22 million

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Architect

Joe Lobko, du Toit Architects

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Engineering

Dalton Construction

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Builder

Stantec Consulting

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Funders

City of Toronto
Artscape
Province of Ontario (Municipal Affairs and Housing)
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 
Canadian Heritage Province of Ontario (Municipal Affairs and Housing)
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Multiple charitable and private organizations

 

Context

Built as a streetcar-maintenance facility a century ago, Wychwood Car Barns are a series of five buildings decommissioned in the 1980s and subsequently designated a heritage site. In response to community demand, the City of Toronto called for proposals to redevelop the four-acre (1.6 hectare) site while preserving some of its heritage. Artscape, a successful not-for-profit real-estate development organization led the project and operates the buildings under a 50-year lease.

Energy efficiency and financial sustainability are central to the project, which houses arts organizations, working artists and urban agriculture. Affordable housing accounts for about one-third of the project’s $22 million capital cost; rents for the 26 live-work spaces (studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments) are geared to tenant incomes of tenants. The City of Toronto converted the remainder of the site into a park with a dog run, playground and skating rink.

 

Artscape Wychwood Barns is a LEED® Gold certified sustainable community hub with 26 units of affordable housing.

 

Approach

Redevelopment was a difficult and expensive proposition for several reasons. The site was contaminated with creosote, asbestos and lead, for instance, while the heritage designation precluded demolition of the buildings. And residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods held starkly different opinions about redevelopment.

In 2001, Artscape established a Community Advisory Council. After more than five years of contentious and often bitter consultations, a compelling vision emerged: a beautifully restored property blending heritage preservation, arts and culture, environmental leadership, parkland, urban agriculture and affordable housing. The diverse uses attracted financial contributions from many sources and construction began.

Contaminated soil was removed; energy- and water-saving amenities were installed, including a geothermal system to heat and cool the buildings, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, low-flow water fixtures and a rainwater-collection system for toilets and irrigation. The project aimed to emit approximately 40% fewer greenhouse gases, and consume 60% less drinking water and 40% less energy than conventional buildings.

"By incorporating affordable housing, community development, heritage preservation and environmental sustainability, Artscape Wychwood Barns delivers social, environmental, financial and cultural benefits – the quadruple bottom line."
– Tim Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Artscape

 

Environmental Measures

  • First designated heritage site in Canada to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification
  • Geothermal system provides heating and cooling; reflective roof panels limit heat absorption in summer
  • Rainwater flows into on-site cistern for use in toilets and irrigation; low-flow plumbing fixtures installed throughout
  • No on-site parking encourages use of adjacent public-transit system
  • Windows feature spectrally selective low-e glazing to reduce solar gains and enhances use of day lighting

 

Results

To date, Artscape Wychwood Barns has experienced challenges with the first generation geothermal system. The company that supplied and installed the system is no longer in business.

During the project, 7,400 cubic metres of contaminated soil were removed and treated. In addition, 71% of construction waste was diverted from landfill and 30% of building materials were sourced locally.

Artscape operates the facility on a cost-recovery basis without ongoing financial support from the City of Toronto. The property generates property tax revenues, and supports economic, social and cultural activities.

 

Lessons Learned

A consultative design process improves results.
The Community Advisory Council, along with Artscape, hosted a series of open houses and design charrettes to explore design ideas for the site with local residents. Friends of the New Park, an independent group of neighbourhood residents, supported these efforts and played a key role in the shared vision that eventually emerged.

Redeveloping former industrial sites often involves managing unforeseen difficulties and expenses.
Two factors complicated the remediation process: unexpected contaminants and changing standards for the removal and disposal of toxic waste. The decision to pursue LEED Gold certification also added to the complexity and cost of the project.

New technologies don’t always perform as anticipated.
The geothermal system, which featured a vertical underground network – most are horizontal – was challenged by first generation geothermal technology. Subsequent geothermal technologies are more reliable.

 

Contact

Tim Jones headshot

Tim Jones
Chief Executive Officer
Artscape
(416) 392-1038
tjones@artscape.ca

Case study: Brownfield redevelopment incorporates affordable housing

Summary

An abandoned, century-old industrial facility in midtown Toronto is transformed into a vibrant, sustainable community hub that includes 26 units of affordable housing. Artscape Wychwood Barns is the first designated heritage site in Canada to achieve LEED® Gold certification.

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Project

Artscape Wychwood Barns

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Developer/Operator

Artscape (50-year lease)

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Owner

City of Toronto

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Affordable Housing

26 units

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Construction

2007–2008

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Cost

$22 million

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Architect

Joe Lobko, du Toit Architects

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Engineering

Dalton Construction

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Builder

Stantec Consulting

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Funders

City of Toronto
Artscape
Province of Ontario (Municipal Affairs and Housing)
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 
Canadian Heritage Province of Ontario (Municipal Affairs and Housing)
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Multiple charitable and private organizations

 

Context

Built as a streetcar-maintenance facility a century ago, Wychwood Car Barns are a series of five buildings decommissioned in the 1980s and subsequently designated a heritage site. In response to community demand, the City of Toronto called for proposals to redevelop the four-acre (1.6 hectare) site while preserving some of its heritage. Artscape, a successful not-for-profit real-estate development organization led the project and operates the buildings under a 50-year lease.

Energy efficiency and financial sustainability are central to the project, which houses arts organizations, working artists and urban agriculture. Affordable housing accounts for about one-third of the project’s $22 million capital cost; rents for the 26 live-work spaces (studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments) are geared to tenant incomes of tenants. The City of Toronto converted the remainder of the site into a park with a dog run, playground and skating rink.

 

Artscape Wychwood Barns is a LEED® Gold certified sustainable community hub with 26 units of affordable housing.

 

Approach

Redevelopment was a difficult and expensive proposition for several reasons. The site was contaminated with creosote, asbestos and lead, for instance, while the heritage designation precluded demolition of the buildings. And residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods held starkly different opinions about redevelopment.

In 2001, Artscape established a Community Advisory Council. After more than five years of contentious and often bitter consultations, a compelling vision emerged: a beautifully restored property blending heritage preservation, arts and culture, environmental leadership, parkland, urban agriculture and affordable housing. The diverse uses attracted financial contributions from many sources and construction began.

Contaminated soil was removed; energy- and water-saving amenities were installed, including a geothermal system to heat and cool the buildings, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, low-flow water fixtures and a rainwater-collection system for toilets and irrigation. The project aimed to emit approximately 40% fewer greenhouse gases, and consume 60% less drinking water and 40% less energy than conventional buildings.

"By incorporating affordable housing, community development, heritage preservation and environmental sustainability, Artscape Wychwood Barns delivers social, environmental, financial and cultural benefits – the quadruple bottom line."
– Tim Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Artscape

 

Environmental Measures

  • First designated heritage site in Canada to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification
  • Geothermal system provides heating and cooling; reflective roof panels limit heat absorption in summer
  • Rainwater flows into on-site cistern for use in toilets and irrigation; low-flow plumbing fixtures installed throughout
  • No on-site parking encourages use of adjacent public-transit system
  • Windows feature spectrally selective low-e glazing to reduce solar gains and enhances use of day lighting

 

Results

To date, Artscape Wychwood Barns has experienced challenges with the first generation geothermal system. The company that supplied and installed the system is no longer in business.

During the project, 7,400 cubic metres of contaminated soil were removed and treated. In addition, 71% of construction waste was diverted from landfill and 30% of building materials were sourced locally.

Artscape operates the facility on a cost-recovery basis without ongoing financial support from the City of Toronto. The property generates property tax revenues, and supports economic, social and cultural activities.

 

Lessons Learned

A consultative design process improves results.
The Community Advisory Council, along with Artscape, hosted a series of open houses and design charrettes to explore design ideas for the site with local residents. Friends of the New Park, an independent group of neighbourhood residents, supported these efforts and played a key role in the shared vision that eventually emerged.

Redeveloping former industrial sites often involves managing unforeseen difficulties and expenses.
Two factors complicated the remediation process: unexpected contaminants and changing standards for the removal and disposal of toxic waste. The decision to pursue LEED Gold certification also added to the complexity and cost of the project.

New technologies don’t always perform as anticipated.
The geothermal system, which featured a vertical underground network – most are horizontal – was challenged by first generation geothermal technology. Subsequent geothermal technologies are more reliable.

 

Contact

Tim Jones headshot

Tim Jones
Chief Executive Officer
Artscape
(416) 392-1038
tjones@artscape.ca

Case study: Raising the bar on community housing retrofits

Summary

A municipally-owned social housing provider transforms a failing 50 year-old apartment tower with 146 units of affordable housing into a landmark building with state-of-the-art performance in energy, health, comfort and accessibility.

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Project

Ken Soble Tower Transformation

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Project Management

City of Hamilton

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Owner

CityHousing Hamilton Corporation (CHH)

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Affordable Housing

146 units

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Construction

ongoing, began in 2019

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Cost

$33 million (2020 estimate)

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Architect and Prime Consultant

ERA Architects

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Mechanical Engineer

Reinbold Engineering Group

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Construction Manager

PCL

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Building Envelope Engineer

Entuitive Corporation

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Passive House Consultant

JMV Consulting

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Funders

City of Hamilton
FCM (Green Municipal Fund)
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (National Housing Co-investment Fund, Innovation Fund)
Province of Ontario

 

Context

The City of Hamilton’s waitlist for community housing includes more than 6,000 households (10,000 people). CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) manages nearly 7,000 units in a total of 1,265 properties, housing approximately 13,000 residents. The 18-storey Ken Soble Tower, built in 1967, is the oldest high-rise building in CHH’s portfolio and a landmark on Hamilton’s West Harbour waterfront. Deferred maintenance, however, has resulted in disrepair and contributes to capital deficit.

Major considerations for CHH include:

  • Renewal of existing affordable housing units;
  • Ensuring quality living standards for tenants; and
  • Astute management of capital and assets, particularly over the long term

Ken Soble Tower in 1967 compared to 2020

 

Approach

Ken Soble Tower is one of two major CHH properties located in a Hamilton neighbourhood under redevelopment. CHH commissioned Deloitte to analyze the properties and to consider various options, such as renovation, or sale and replacement. After reviewing the Deloitte study and potential funding programs, CHH worked with ERA Architects to design a plan to renovate Ken Soble Tower to best-in-class standards for accessibility, energy efficiency and quality of life.

CHH chose to retrofit the Tower to meet EnerPHit Certification, a branch of the Passive House (Passivhaus) performance-based standard designed specifically for building retrofits. The project will provide residents with improved comfort, health and greater control over their indoor environments, and dramatically reduce the building’s environmental impacts.

In addition, the project will help to meet projected long-term growth in demand for affordable seniors’ housing by incorporating accessibility and aging-in-place principles. By establishing new community spaces and proposed partnerships with social service agencies, the project aims to support tenants, along with the surrounding neighbourhood.

The project also showcases an approach to retrofitting the thousands of apartment towers across Canada and around the world facing similar problems.

The project includes a significant research component. CHH, in partnership with CMHC, is documenting the energy and non-energy benefits of the project’s holistic approach. Other research partners include: The Tower Renewal Partnership; The Atmospheric Fund; University of Toronto; Transsolar; and Pembina Institute.

"Old buildings can be great places to showcase the value of new ideas."
– Sean Botham, CityHousing Hamilton Corporation

Health, Energy and Environmental Measures

Along with new plumbing and electrical systems, the project will install heat-recovery systems and direct ducting of fresh air into all units. Other retrofit tasks include:

  • Apply air barrier to exterior brick topped by mineral wool
  • Remove balconies to eliminate thermal bridging and reduce maintenance
  • Seal fire-separation breaks found throughout all units

The project aims to decrease overall energy intensity by at least 70%, significantly reduce energy and maintenance costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90%. Once construction is complete, the total energy required to heat or cool each unit will be equal to the energy required to run 3 incandescent light bulbs (100W). The project will qualify as one of only 10 high-rise retrofits registered with International PH Certification in the world – and the first in North America – and ties in strongly with Hamilton’s goals of design excellence, and financial and environmental sustainability.

 

Challenges

Building condition worse than anticipated               

Despite the analysis conducted during the feasibility stage and subsequent investigations, the start of construction revealed additional areas of building deterioration. These included extensive mould growth, breaks in the fire separation between units and inadequate plumbing. Addressing these previously concealed problems added to the scope of work and to project costs.

Rising construction costs                                                                          

Between design completion and start of construction, construction costs in the Hamilton region escalated at approximately one percent per month, an unprecedented rate. The addition of a sprinkler system, along with air conditioning (to adapt to climate change, and improve the health and comfort of residents), also increased costs, although to a much lesser extent. The project is now expected to cost significantly more than the initial estimate of $16 million. To cover the cost increases, CHH secured an additional grant and loans from funders.

 

Expected Results

The project will provide residents with improved comfort and control of their indoor environments, and the ability to withstand future extreme climate events. It also aims to support Canada’s climate change targets and to demonstrate the long-term financial advantages of reducing operational and maintenance costs.

 

Key Statistics: Before and After Construction

Statistic Before After (projected)
Annual heating energy requirement per metre2 250 kWh 24.9 kWh
Annual cooling energy requirement per metre2 none 1.9 kWh
Annual primary energy requirement per metre2 650 kWh 130 kWh
Air tightness 5.41 ACH at 50Pa 0.6 ACH at 50Pa

 

Lessons Learned

Balance assessment considerations and funding program deadlines.
Completing more thorough assessment of the building’s condition might have provided a more accurate understanding of project scope, but the time needed would have caused the project to miss the deadlines of funding programs. As a result, the project would not have proceeded.

Support for sustainability can inspire transformational change.
While it can be expensive to bring a building back online, the additional costs of incorporating features that improve energy performance and promote sustainability are relatively small, and can generate long-term savings on utilities and operations. Grants that cover the additional cost of high-performance enable transformative jumps rather than incremental change.

 

Contact

Sean Botham headshot

Sean Botham
Senior Development Project Manager
CityHousing Hamilton
(905) 546-2424 ext. 7620
sean.botham@hamilton.ca

Case study: Energy retrofit delivers multiple benefits

Summary

Long-term savings in utility costs fund the major energy-efficiency retrofit of seven community-housing buildings, improving indoor air quality and comfort for 1,500 residents.

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Project

Retrofit of seven community housing buildings

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Construction

2015–2017 (multiple phases)

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Owner

Toronto Community Housing Corporation

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Cost

$5.6 million

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Affordable Housing

1,237 households
7 buildings ranging from 4 to 19 storeys

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Developer

The Atmospheric Fund

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Partners and Funders

The Atmospheric Fund
Toronto Community Housing Corporation
City of Toronto
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Enbridge Gas Distribution
Ecobeex

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Engineering and Construction

Ecosystem Energy Services (Montréal)

 

Context

Most of Toronto’s 2,200 community-housing buildings, built in the 1950s and 1960s, are in dire need of renovations.

To minimize energy consumption and environmental impacts, and to improve resident comfort and indoor-air quality, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCH) partnered with The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a regional climate agency that invests in low-carbon solutions. During a multi-year project, the partners retrofitted seven social housing buildings, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent and utility costs by 20 per cent. The project is part of the City of Toronto’s larger Tower Renewal strategy to revitalize aging postwar apartment buildings.

 

RJ Smith Apartments, Toronto Community housing buildings retrofitted by The Atmospheric Fund

 

Approach

TAF and TCH signed an Energy Savings Performance Agreement™ to finance and implement comprehensive energy retrofits in seven TCH buildings. Verifiable long-term savings in utility costs finance the retrofits. TAF developed and posted a request for proposals that included design, implementation and verification of results. Montréal based Ecosystem Energy won the contract.

Design charrettes involved tenants, project partners, stakeholders and industry experts from the Tower Renewal Partnership, University of Toronto and National Research Council Canada. Significant research, including tenant surveys and on-site testing, informed the project. Tests revealed that inadequate ventilation systems produced airflows more than 40% below current building-code requirements. Uncomfortably warm indoor temperatures due to oversized and poorly controlled boilers caused tenants to leave windows open during winter, wasting energy.

The team installed energy-efficient equipment and monitoring technology, including smart thermostats and properly sized boilers. The retrofit doubled the volume of fresh air in the buildings, providing an immediate and noticeable improvement for residents. The replacement of leaky toilets also generated significant additional savings, while lighting retrofits improved public safety and wayfinding.

A resident-engagement program informed tenants about the project’s progress and taught them to properly operate thermostats. TCH plans further tenant engagement to showcase and celebrate energy-saving behaviour.

Through a partnership with Building Up, a non-profit organization that trains people facing employment barriers, the project hired 12 community members on a short-term basis. The workers assisted with installation and trained residents in proper thermostat use.

"By integrating design and implementation, this project cost-effectively reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions, while improving tenant comfort and air quality."
– Bryan Purcell, The Atmospheric Fund

Environmental Measures

  • High-efficiency boilers, motors and lighting
  • Heat-recovery ventilation
  • Low-flow faucets and toilets
  • In-suite air-quality monitors and thermostats
  • Gas-absorption heat pumps (for one building’s hot-water system)

 

RJ Smith Apartments, Toronto Community housing buildings retrofitted by The Atmospheric Fund

 

Results

The project reduces utility costs by more than $500,000 per year and GHG emissions by the equivalent of 963 tonnes of CO2, and is expected to yield a 364% return on investment during the 10-year partnership. Supply of fresh air has increased by 75–100%.

Energy Savings by Building

Revised baselines and projections were adjusted for weather normalization of base year and operational changes (e.g. changes to thermostat settings, and in numbers of installed lighting and plumping fixtures, etc.).

Building Energy
Source
Pre-Project
Baseline
Consumption
Anticipated
Energy
Consumption
After
Project
Completion
Revised
Baseline
if applicable
Revised
Anticipated
if applicable
Actual
After
Project
Completion
Net
Anticipated
Reduction
Net
Actual
Reduction
    GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr
101
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 1,850.6 1,550.3 1,853.4 1,553.1 1,494.9 300.3 358.5
Gas 4,434.7 1,549.5 5,824.9 2,939.7 4,106.7 2,885.2 1,718.2
121
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 1,671.5 1,400.2 1,674.0 1,402.8 1,350.2 271.2 323.8
Gas 4,005.6 1,399.6 5,261.2 2,655.2 3,709.3 2,606.0 1,551.9
111
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 494.6 414.4 495.4 415.1 399.6 80.3 95.8
Gas 1,185.3 414.2 1,556.9 785.7 1,097.6 771.2 459.2
7
Arleta
Ave.
Electricity 2,792.0 2,482.3 3,006.9 2,697.2 2,672.1 309.7 334.7
Gas 7,541.7 4,053.7 8,610.4 5,122.4 6,266.1 3,488.0 2,344.3
11
Arleta
Ave.
Electricity 2,411.9 2,144.3 2,597.5 2,330.0 2,308.3 267.5 289.2
Gas 6,514.9 3,501.8 7,438.1 4,425.0 5,413.0 3,013.1 2,025.1
710
Trethewey
Electricity 5,710.8 4,477.9 5,910.4 4,677.5 4,578.9 1,232.9 1,331.5
Gas 13,260.9 11,039.8 16,238.4 14,017.3 13,468.5 2,221.1 2,769.8
720
Trethewey
estimated
Electricity 6,657.2 5,219.9 6,889.8 5,452.6 5,337.7 1,437.2 1,552.1
Gas 15,458.4 12,869.3 18,929.3 16,340.2 15,700.4 2,589.1 3,228.8

Source: 2018 Environmental Results Report submitted to FCM pursuant to funding agreement

Lessons Learned

Finance retrofits by leveraging savings in long-term utility costs.
The 10-year agreement gave all three parties an ongoing stake in the project’s success. All three parties are motivated to solve any problems that arise.

Integrate project design and implementation.
A more typical approach to project design and implementation involves dozens of requests for proposals and contracts with numerous parties. This complicates contract management and accountability. Although integration requires additional time and effort during design and planning, it produces superior results.

Collect and analyze data before and after retrofit.
Preliminary research informed multiple aspects of the project. The fact that overheating resulted in the wastage of 20% of heat energy helped to make the case for installing in-suite heating controls, for instance. And the finding that leaky toilets accounted for 20% of total water consumption informed the decision to install ultra-low flow, leak-resistant toilets and fixtures. Continuous measurement and verification contribute to ongoing efficiency and potential improvements.

Engage with tenants before, during and after implementation.
Tenants represent an invaluable source of intelligence. Consulting with them during the design and planning stages helps identify what needs to be done and builds the goodwill needed to ensure the project’s successful implementation and ongoing operation.

Take advantage of economies of scale.
Aggregating multiple measures in seven buildings enabled the project to realize economies of scale for both professional services (design, commissioning, etc.) and construction (e.g. reduced contractor-mobilization costs). While some buildings were unlikely to generate the post-retrofit savings needed to justify the investment, bundling them together achieved the overall targeted return on investment.

Prioritize resident comfort and health.
Research conducted prior to the project revealed that rather than complain about high indoor temperatures, many residents simply open their windows, exacerbating temperature-control issues. Installing in-suite heating controls helps to maximize both comfort and energy savings.

 

Contact

Bryan Purcell headshot

Bryan Purcell
Vice President of Policy and Programs
The Atmospheric Fund
416-393-6358
bpurcell@taf.ca

Case study: Energy retrofit delivers multiple benefits

Summary

Long-term savings in utility costs fund the major energy-efficiency retrofit of seven community-housing buildings, improving indoor air quality and comfort for 1,500 residents.

icon

Project

Retrofit of seven community housing buildings

icon

Construction

2015–2017 (multiple phases)

icon

Owner

Toronto Community Housing Corporation

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Cost

$5.6 million

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Affordable Housing

1,237 households
7 buildings ranging from 4 to 19 storeys

icon

Developer

The Atmospheric Fund

icon

Partners and Funders

The Atmospheric Fund
Toronto Community Housing Corporation
City of Toronto
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Enbridge Gas Distribution
Ecobeex

icon

Engineering and Construction

Ecosystem Energy Services (Montréal)

 

Context

Most of Toronto’s 2,200 community-housing buildings, built in the 1950s and 1960s, are in dire need of renovations.

To minimize energy consumption and environmental impacts, and to improve resident comfort and indoor-air quality, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCH) partnered with The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a regional climate agency that invests in low-carbon solutions. During a multi-year project, the partners retrofitted seven social housing buildings, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent and utility costs by 20 per cent. The project is part of the City of Toronto’s larger Tower Renewal strategy to revitalize aging postwar apartment buildings.

 

RJ Smith Apartments, Toronto Community housing buildings retrofitted by The Atmospheric Fund

 

Approach

TAF and TCH signed an Energy Savings Performance Agreement™ to finance and implement comprehensive energy retrofits in seven TCH buildings. Verifiable long-term savings in utility costs finance the retrofits. TAF developed and posted a request for proposals that included design, implementation and verification of results. Montréal based Ecosystem Energy won the contract.

Design charrettes involved tenants, project partners, stakeholders and industry experts from the Tower Renewal Partnership, University of Toronto and National Research Council Canada. Significant research, including tenant surveys and on-site testing, informed the project. Tests revealed that inadequate ventilation systems produced airflows more than 40% below current building-code requirements. Uncomfortably warm indoor temperatures due to oversized and poorly controlled boilers caused tenants to leave windows open during winter, wasting energy.

The team installed energy-efficient equipment and monitoring technology, including smart thermostats and properly sized boilers. The retrofit doubled the volume of fresh air in the buildings, providing an immediate and noticeable improvement for residents. The replacement of leaky toilets also generated significant additional savings, while lighting retrofits improved public safety and wayfinding.

A resident-engagement program informed tenants about the project’s progress and taught them to properly operate thermostats. TCH plans further tenant engagement to showcase and celebrate energy-saving behaviour.

Through a partnership with Building Up, a non-profit organization that trains people facing employment barriers, the project hired 12 community members on a short-term basis. The workers assisted with installation and trained residents in proper thermostat use.

"By integrating design and implementation, this project cost-effectively reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions, while improving tenant comfort and air quality."
– Bryan Purcell, The Atmospheric Fund

Environmental Measures

  • High-efficiency boilers, motors and lighting
  • Heat-recovery ventilation
  • Low-flow faucets and toilets
  • In-suite air-quality monitors and thermostats
  • Gas-absorption heat pumps (for one building’s hot-water system)

 

RJ Smith Apartments, Toronto Community housing buildings retrofitted by The Atmospheric Fund

 

Results

The project reduces utility costs by more than $500,000 per year and GHG emissions by the equivalent of 963 tonnes of CO2, and is expected to yield a 364% return on investment during the 10-year partnership. Supply of fresh air has increased by 75–100%.

Energy Savings by Building

Revised baselines and projections were adjusted for weather normalization of base year and operational changes (e.g. changes to thermostat settings, and in numbers of installed lighting and plumping fixtures, etc.).

Building Energy
Source
Pre-Project
Baseline
Consumption
Anticipated
Energy
Consumption
After
Project
Completion
Revised
Baseline
if applicable
Revised
Anticipated
if applicable
Actual
After
Project
Completion
Net
Anticipated
Reduction
Net
Actual
Reduction
    GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr GJ/yr
101
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 1,850.6 1,550.3 1,853.4 1,553.1 1,494.9 300.3 358.5
Gas 4,434.7 1,549.5 5,824.9 2,939.7 4,106.7 2,885.2 1,718.2
121
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 1,671.5 1,400.2 1,674.0 1,402.8 1,350.2 271.2 323.8
Gas 4,005.6 1,399.6 5,261.2 2,655.2 3,709.3 2,606.0 1,551.9
111
Kendleton
Dr.
Electricity 494.6 414.4 495.4 415.1 399.6 80.3 95.8
Gas 1,185.3 414.2 1,556.9 785.7 1,097.6 771.2 459.2
7
Arleta
Ave.
Electricity 2,792.0 2,482.3 3,006.9 2,697.2 2,672.1 309.7 334.7
Gas 7,541.7 4,053.7 8,610.4 5,122.4 6,266.1 3,488.0 2,344.3
11
Arleta
Ave.
Electricity 2,411.9 2,144.3 2,597.5 2,330.0 2,308.3 267.5 289.2
Gas 6,514.9 3,501.8 7,438.1 4,425.0 5,413.0 3,013.1 2,025.1
710
Trethewey
Electricity 5,710.8 4,477.9 5,910.4 4,677.5 4,578.9 1,232.9 1,331.5
Gas 13,260.9 11,039.8 16,238.4 14,017.3 13,468.5 2,221.1 2,769.8
720
Trethewey
estimated
Electricity 6,657.2 5,219.9 6,889.8 5,452.6 5,337.7 1,437.2 1,552.1
Gas 15,458.4 12,869.3 18,929.3 16,340.2 15,700.4 2,589.1 3,228.8

Source: 2018 Environmental Results Report submitted to FCM pursuant to funding agreement

Lessons Learned

Finance retrofits by leveraging savings in long-term utility costs.
The 10-year agreement gave all three parties an ongoing stake in the project’s success. All three parties are motivated to solve any problems that arise.

Integrate project design and implementation.
A more typical approach to project design and implementation involves dozens of requests for proposals and contracts with numerous parties. This complicates contract management and accountability. Although integration requires additional time and effort during design and planning, it produces superior results.

Collect and analyze data before and after retrofit.
Preliminary research informed multiple aspects of the project. The fact that overheating resulted in the wastage of 20% of heat energy helped to make the case for installing in-suite heating controls, for instance. And the finding that leaky toilets accounted for 20% of total water consumption informed the decision to install ultra-low flow, leak-resistant toilets and fixtures. Continuous measurement and verification contribute to ongoing efficiency and potential improvements.

Engage with tenants before, during and after implementation.
Tenants represent an invaluable source of intelligence. Consulting with them during the design and planning stages helps identify what needs to be done and builds the goodwill needed to ensure the project’s successful implementation and ongoing operation.

Take advantage of economies of scale.
Aggregating multiple measures in seven buildings enabled the project to realize economies of scale for both professional services (design, commissioning, etc.) and construction (e.g. reduced contractor-mobilization costs). While some buildings were unlikely to generate the post-retrofit savings needed to justify the investment, bundling them together achieved the overall targeted return on investment.

Prioritize resident comfort and health.
Research conducted prior to the project revealed that rather than complain about high indoor temperatures, many residents simply open their windows, exacerbating temperature-control issues. Installing in-suite heating controls helps to maximize both comfort and energy savings.

 

Contact

Bryan Purcell headshot

Bryan Purcell
Vice President of Policy and Programs
The Atmospheric Fund
416-393-6358
bpurcell@taf.ca

Case study: Raising the bar on community housing retrofits

Summary

A municipally-owned social housing provider transforms a failing 50 year-old apartment tower with 146 units of affordable housing into a landmark building with state-of-the-art performance in energy, health, comfort and accessibility.

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Project

Ken Soble Tower Transformation

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Project Management

City of Hamilton

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Owner

CityHousing Hamilton Corporation (CHH)

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Affordable Housing

146 units

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Construction

ongoing, began in 2019

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Cost

$33 million (2020 estimate)

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Architect and Prime Consultant

ERA Architects

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Mechanical Engineer

Reinbold Engineering Group

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Construction Manager

PCL

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Building Envelope Engineer

Entuitive Corporation

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Passive House Consultant

JMV Consulting

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Funders

City of Hamilton
FCM (Green Municipal Fund)
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (National Housing Co-investment Fund, Innovation Fund)
Province of Ontario

 

Context

The City of Hamilton’s waitlist for community housing includes more than 6,000 households (10,000 people). CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) manages nearly 7,000 units in a total of 1,265 properties, housing approximately 13,000 residents. The 18-storey Ken Soble Tower, built in 1967, is the oldest high-rise building in CHH’s portfolio and a landmark on Hamilton’s West Harbour waterfront. Deferred maintenance, however, has resulted in disrepair and contributes to capital deficit.

Major considerations for CHH include:

  • Renewal of existing affordable housing units;
  • Ensuring quality living standards for tenants; and
  • Astute management of capital and assets, particularly over the long term

Ken Soble Tower in 1967 compared to 2020

 

Approach

Ken Soble Tower is one of two major CHH properties located in a Hamilton neighbourhood under redevelopment. CHH commissioned Deloitte to analyze the properties and to consider various options, such as renovation, or sale and replacement. After reviewing the Deloitte study and potential funding programs, CHH worked with ERA Architects to design a plan to renovate Ken Soble Tower to best-in-class standards for accessibility, energy efficiency and quality of life.

CHH chose to retrofit the Tower to meet EnerPHit Certification, a branch of the Passive House (Passivhaus) performance-based standard designed specifically for building retrofits. The project will provide residents with improved comfort, health and greater control over their indoor environments, and dramatically reduce the building’s environmental impacts.

In addition, the project will help to meet projected long-term growth in demand for affordable seniors’ housing by incorporating accessibility and aging-in-place principles. By establishing new community spaces and proposed partnerships with social service agencies, the project aims to support tenants, along with the surrounding neighbourhood.

The project also showcases an approach to retrofitting the thousands of apartment towers across Canada and around the world facing similar problems.

The project includes a significant research component. CHH, in partnership with CMHC, is documenting the energy and non-energy benefits of the project’s holistic approach. Other research partners include: The Tower Renewal Partnership; The Atmospheric Fund; University of Toronto; Transsolar; and Pembina Institute.

"Old buildings can be great places to showcase the value of new ideas."
– Sean Botham, CityHousing Hamilton Corporation

Health, Energy and Environmental Measures

Along with new plumbing and electrical systems, the project will install heat-recovery systems and direct ducting of fresh air into all units. Other retrofit tasks include:

  • Apply air barrier to exterior brick topped by mineral wool
  • Remove balconies to eliminate thermal bridging and reduce maintenance
  • Seal fire-separation breaks found throughout all units

The project aims to decrease overall energy intensity by at least 70%, significantly reduce energy and maintenance costs, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90%. Once construction is complete, the total energy required to heat or cool each unit will be equal to the energy required to run 3 incandescent light bulbs (100W). The project will qualify as one of only 10 high-rise retrofits registered with International PH Certification in the world – and the first in North America – and ties in strongly with Hamilton’s goals of design excellence, and financial and environmental sustainability.

 

Challenges

Building condition worse than anticipated               

Despite the analysis conducted during the feasibility stage and subsequent investigations, the start of construction revealed additional areas of building deterioration. These included extensive mould growth, breaks in the fire separation between units and inadequate plumbing. Addressing these previously concealed problems added to the scope of work and to project costs.

Rising construction costs                                                                          

Between design completion and start of construction, construction costs in the Hamilton region escalated at approximately one percent per month, an unprecedented rate. The addition of a sprinkler system, along with air conditioning (to adapt to climate change, and improve the health and comfort of residents), also increased costs, although to a much lesser extent. The project is now expected to cost significantly more than the initial estimate of $16 million. To cover the cost increases, CHH secured an additional grant and loans from funders.

 

Expected Results

The project will provide residents with improved comfort and control of their indoor environments, and the ability to withstand future extreme climate events. It also aims to support Canada’s climate change targets and to demonstrate the long-term financial advantages of reducing operational and maintenance costs.

 

Key Statistics: Before and After Construction

Statistic Before After (projected)
Annual heating energy requirement per metre2 250 kWh 24.9 kWh
Annual cooling energy requirement per metre2 none 1.9 kWh
Annual primary energy requirement per metre2 650 kWh 130 kWh
Air tightness 5.41 ACH at 50Pa 0.6 ACH at 50Pa

 

Lessons Learned

Balance assessment considerations and funding program deadlines.
Completing more thorough assessment of the building’s condition might have provided a more accurate understanding of project scope, but the time needed would have caused the project to miss the deadlines of funding programs. As a result, the project would not have proceeded.

Support for sustainability can inspire transformational change.
While it can be expensive to bring a building back online, the additional costs of incorporating features that improve energy performance and promote sustainability are relatively small, and can generate long-term savings on utilities and operations. Grants that cover the additional cost of high-performance enable transformative jumps rather than incremental change.

 

Contact

Sean Botham headshot

Sean Botham
Senior Development Project Manager
CityHousing Hamilton
(905) 546-2424 ext. 7620
sean.botham@hamilton.ca

Case study: Nova Scotia's longest paved bike path in Cape Breton

Project type Amount Community
Capital project

Loan: $1 million
Grant: $100,000

Sydney and Glace Bay, NS

 

Cape breton bike path

 

Bike paths are an anomaly in Nova Scotia, and this project was the largest component of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's (CBRM) Active Transportation (AT) plan. In 2007–2008, it carried out public consultations, including focus groups, five public open houses and an online survey. An advisory committee met regularly after the study to monitor the project's progress. Its representatives included:

  • The municipality
  • The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation
  • Velo Cape Breton
  • The Regional Health Authority
  • Mayflower Mall 
  • Cape Breton University
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation

The path is expected to:

  • Remove 1,240 vehicles from the road
  • Reduce vehicle kilometres travelled by 7,936,000 per year
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.5 million kg of CO2e per year
  • Stimulate economic growth by increasing interaction between Sydney and Glace Bay, as well as the university
  • Serve approximately 4,000 students and 450 staff at the university
  • Serve approximately 1,400 students and 170 staff at the Nova Scotia Community College (Marconi Campus)
Cape breton bike path

Many of their design suggestions were incorporated into the final plan

The 10-kilometre multi-use path links Sydney, Glace Bay and Cape Breton University. It's an off-road, AT corridor, where people can walk, bike, inline skate or skateboard with minimal vehicular interactions. It's a safe alternative transportation route in a corridor that was previously served only by the Grand Lake Road–a four-lane highway. The pathway is wheelchair accessible.

"I think this project truly showed that we can make huge improvements in our communities if we apply ourselves and commit to the implementation of our AT plan. My hope is that people will realize the potential we have in regards to converting existing rail beds and trails into functioning AT corridors."
— Malcolm Roach, Operations Supervisor, Public Works East, New Waterford and Area, Cape Breton Regional Municipality

This new route will enhance Mayflower Mall's economic viability by connecting it to nearby residential areas. It's the region's largest shopping centre. The 570 students living on campus can now access shopping and employment opportunities by bicycle, reducing their personal travel costs. Other students and university employees from Sydney and Glace Bay can now bike to campus.

"The feedback from our membership has been overwhelmingly positive... Though designed as a transportation corridor, it is proving to be recreational, especially for new cyclists and families with young cyclists."
— Andree Crepeau, Vice-President, Velo Cape Breton

Additional resources 

Case study: Saint John explores options for district energy system

Feasibility Study for a Green Thermal Utility (GTU) District Heating and Cooling Loop in Downtown Saint John

City of Saint John

The City of Saint John studied the feasibility of a district energy system to serve buildings in the downtown area. These systems distribute thermal energy from a central facility to heat and cool multiple buildings.

Saint John's study examined various energy options including raw sewage heat recovery from the nearby waste water treatment plant and energy recovery from  Saint John Harbour seawater and industrial waste. In the end, the recommended approach was to use waste energy from the nearby Irving pulp and paper mill. Initially, 15 buildings would be connected. The district energy system would reduce energy costs, greenhouse-gas emissions and the city's fossil-fuel dependency. It would also encourage the development of green buildings in the heart of the city.

Results

Environmental Economic Social
  • GHG emissions reduced by 9,500 tonnes per year
  • Reduced reliance on fossil fuels
  • Annual energy savings of $2.2 million
  • Six full-time operations jobs and 200 construction jobs
  • Green development revitalizes the downtown core
  • Building residents enjoy the lack of boilers, furnaces and other equipment

Challenges

  • The lack of a project champion in city government and limited city staffing capacity to oversee the study.
  • Limited understanding of the potential of a district energy system among property managers and owners.
  • Financial constraints at the city, which put the district energy system project on hold in 2011.

Lessons learned

  • Visit district energy sites in other municipalities and consult with managers, designers and developers to clearly understand the potential of these systems.
  • Develop a master community energy plan to list local energy sources, buildings and future infrastructure projects before undertaking this kind of study.
  • Consult early and often with the public and local developers and property managers throughout the project.

Resources

Partners and Collaborators

Project Contact

Samir Yammine
Energy Manager
City of Saint John, NB
T. 506-648-4667

Case study: Saint John explores options for district energy system

Feasibility Study for a Green Thermal Utility (GTU) District Heating and Cooling Loop in Downtown Saint John

City of Saint John

The City of Saint John studied the feasibility of a district energy system to serve buildings in the downtown area. These systems distribute thermal energy from a central facility to heat and cool multiple buildings.

Saint John's study examined various energy options including raw sewage heat recovery from the nearby waste water treatment plant and energy recovery from  Saint John Harbour seawater and industrial waste. In the end, the recommended approach was to use waste energy from the nearby Irving pulp and paper mill. Initially, 15 buildings would be connected. The district energy system would reduce energy costs, greenhouse-gas emissions and the city's fossil-fuel dependency. It would also encourage the development of green buildings in the heart of the city.

Results

Environmental Economic Social
  • GHG emissions reduced by 9,500 tonnes per year
  • Reduced reliance on fossil fuels
  • Annual energy savings of $2.2 million
  • Six full-time operations jobs and 200 construction jobs
  • Green development revitalizes the downtown core
  • Building residents enjoy the lack of boilers, furnaces and other equipment

Challenges

  • The lack of a project champion in city government and limited city staffing capacity to oversee the study.
  • Limited understanding of the potential of a district energy system among property managers and owners.
  • Financial constraints at the city, which put the district energy system project on hold in 2011.

Lessons learned

  • Visit district energy sites in other municipalities and consult with managers, designers and developers to clearly understand the potential of these systems.
  • Develop a master community energy plan to list local energy sources, buildings and future infrastructure projects before undertaking this kind of study.
  • Consult early and often with the public and local developers and property managers throughout the project.

Resources

Partners and Collaborators

Project Contact

Samir Yammine
Energy Manager
City of Saint John, NB
T. 506-648-4667

Sustainable Communities Awards

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities across the country, we are extending the deadline by one month to Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Individuals who intend to apply for the awards, but who will not be able to do so by the original deadline of March 31, should contact us to confirm their intent to apply.

Since 2001, FCM's Sustainable Communities Awards have celebrated the most innovative environmental initiatives in Canadian cities and communities of all sizes. As we reflect on the past 20 years of the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) and prepare for an exciting new chapter ahead, we honour those sustainability projects that demonstrate environmental responsibility and excellence, and take an integrated approach to yielding social and economic benefits for their communities.

The winning projects leverage current and advanced technologies as well as best practices in the area of environmental and sustainability, and can be replicated and scaled up across Canada to achieve national quality-of-life, sustainability and climate goals. The awards honour the most innovative sustainability and environmental initiatives in nine categories:

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the award category that best represents the primary goal or environmental benefit of the initiative.

Call for nominations now open

The call for nominations for FCM’s 2020 Sustainable Communities Awards is open. The awards are available to Canadian cities and communities of all sizes. We will honour the winners at our Sustainable Communities ConferenceCanada’s leading municipal sustainability event, taking place on October 20-22, 2020, in St. John's, NL. 

Need help getting started on your application? Watch our webinar (read the transcript) and learn everything you need to know about applying to the 2020 Awards program.

Why apply?

GMF is a national sustainability leader—as an award winner, you’ll receive local and national recognition and promotion for your initiative.

Benefits include:

  • Recognition from your peers, community and the media for your municipality’s accomplishments in sustainable development.
  • Opportunity to showcase and present your initiative at FCM’s 2020 Sustainable Communities Conference.
  • Individual coaching and support to help you develop a TED Talk-style presentation that will be recorded at the conference and shared.
  • Encourage local pride by inviting your community to vote for you to receive FCM’s Inspire Award, which is given to the project that demonstrates the most creativity and innovation.
  • Showcase your sustainability initiative as a scalable model other municipalities can learn from.

In addition, applicants will be asked to describe how their initiative achieves multiple outcomes, including social, economic and secondary environmental benefits.

FCM is offering to cover the cost of conference registration and certain travel-related costs for award winners who are travelling outside of their region. This subsidy is awarded based on need. Contact us to see if you are eligible.

Meet our Judges

Meet our judges for FCM's 2020 Sustainable Communities Awards who will select the winners. The panel includes FCM Board members and subject matter experts from multiple sectors, including water, transportation, brownfields, energy, asset management and climate change.

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