Co-ops have many reasons for wanting to be more sustainable. Some members like the idea of helping to combat global warming by wasting fewer resources. Others take pride in knowing that their co-operative is a good corporate citizen and a credit to the movement. Still others just want to lead a comfortable life in a draft-free, healthy, well-lit building. Everyone can get behind the savings that co-ops and their members enjoy when they operate sustainably.
Maybe your co-op is already practising environmental sustainability by controlling your spending on utilities. Or maybe not. Your first clue could come from your Co-op Data Report—now known as the Performance Report—which the Agency sends every year. (If you can’t find it in your co-op office, it’s also available on the Agency’s password-protected client website.) For most Agency clients, we show spending on energy and water in comparison with similar co‑ops. Does your co-op’s spending seem to be at the high end of the scale in these areas? If so, your next step would be to pick a project that will get you on the road to sustainable savings.
Your starting point could be the Agency’s Top 5 Energy-Saving Tips. These are things your co-op can do to save money and energy. Simple and basic, but they work! Another good place to look for ideas is CHF Canada’s website page about its Greener Co-op Microgrant program. It’s easy to apply, so why not start planning for next year’s grant?
If your co-op is farther along the road to sustainability, you could be ready for your first energy audit. This study will help you decide how useful the different types of energy-saving upgrade would be in your co-op, whether your goal is to save your money, or save the world by lowering greenhouse gases.
Grants are also available from the new Housing Transformation Centre for studies that will support your efforts to save through sustainability. A good year-by year plan is very important in helping you take care of your property, while also moving forward with energy-saving measures.
Once you’ve been approved for one or more grants, you’ll need to find an engineering firm to do the work. Make sure you tell them that your co-op is looking for ways to save both money and energy. We recommend that you reach out to CHF Canada, your local federation, your manager or the Agency for help in getting quotes so that your co-op can compare apples with apples. If you’re getting both a BCA and an energy audit, the same firm might or might not be a good choice to do both.
Once you have your energy audit, you will need to make sure that the sustainability projects your co-op has selected have been added to your plan, if they aren’t already in your BCA. Some co-ops take on only energy-saving projects that pay for themselves within a few years. Instead, we recommend that your co‑op commit to upgrades with both a shorter and a longer payback period. This will ensure that savings from some projects will help pay for others and your co-op will benefit more in the long run. If you’re not sure, you’ll find more information at Natural Resources Canada. If a grant or rebate would help you decide, check out financial incentives by province.
The process of making your property more sustainable can be demanding, but it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is to take that first step with a small project and then move on from there. The results will be rewarding. Everyone involved will have the satisfaction of knowing that their building has been refreshed and revived. You’ll also have won a battle in the war against the ravages of time.