At CivicAction’s 2007 regional summit, climate change was on the radar of many across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but few realized the impact that commercial properties were having on the region’s level of carbon emissions.
At the time, total office space inventory was estimated at 165 million square feet in over 1,750 GTA office buildings which accounted for close to 20% of the region’s carbon emissions.
There was a significant gap in what building owners and tenants could be doing together to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings. With tenant use of office space accounting for 25-50% of a building’s total energy use, owners and tenants needed to work together to make a measurable impact.
By creating a program that promised savings that were good for the environment and for the bottom line, there was an opportunity to collectively motivate the commercial office sector in new ways.
CivicAction challenged the GTA’s building owners and tenants to take action through the Race to Reduce and collectively reduce energy use in their buildings by at least 10 per cent from 2011-2015.
The Race to Reduce program was informed by CivicAction’s Commercial Building Energy Initiative Leadership Council of over 40 senior executive members and was moved forward by several working groups over the course of the Race.
Elements that made the Race to Reduce successful include annual recognition that tapped into the competitive nature of the sector and an aspirational, but achievable, collective goal.
Race to Reduce participants surpassed the program’s target collectively reducing their energy use by over 12% in four years, the equivalent of taking more than 4,200 cars off the road and putting $13.7 million back into office landlords’ and tenants’ pockets.
Race to Reduce became one of the largest regional energy challenges in the world, with almost 200 buildings participating representing more than 69 million square feet or 42% of the commercial office space in the GTA.
62% of participants said that the Race to Reduce was responsible for actions or collaborations that otherwise would not have happened.
The Race to Reduce received local, national and international recognition including 2015 winner of Energy Globe National Award (Canada), 2015 Clean 50 Award – Top 15 project, and is an Ivey Business School case study.
Although CivicAction’s Race to Reduce ended in 2015, the program has a lasting legacy. BOMA Toronto is carrying on the torch in Toronto and relaunched the Race to Reduce in June 2017 and Manitoba Hydro is running its own Race to Reduce program in Winnipeg.