U of T has been finding ways to reduce its energy consumption for decades, and has now adopted some of the toughest energy-efficiency standards of any university in North America, says Ron Swail, U of T’s assistant vice-president of facilities and services. The savings will allow the university to redirect funds to teaching and research – reason alone to reduce energy use.
But there’s another important rationale: by investing in energy-efficiency, the university will help Toronto meet its ambitious carbon-cutting targets as it joins the worldwide effort to stave off the worst effects of climate change. “This is a strong signal,” says Swail. “We’re moving extremely fast.”
U of T’s green strategy extends to new buildings on all three campuses. As an example of the benefits, Swail points to the nine-storey addition to the Rotman School of Management. The building opened in 2012 and is certified gold by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). “We recognize that we have to be leaders by example,” says Swail.
The new building has many sustainable features, including heating and cooling that can be tailored to the needs of each floor; highly efficient lighting; low-flow washroom fixtures; and a cistern that collects rain so that no potable water is used on landscaping.
Swail points out that the university’s long-term commitment to sustainability – enabled by philanthropy – means that the St. George campus uses less water today than it did in 1991, despite having many more buildings and people. “Without the generous funding provided by our benefactors, it would be impossible to create the quality of buildings we have,” he says.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre