Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Headquarters

Toronto, Canada

Energy modeling and LEED consulting for an ambitious green building on a budget

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Headquarters is an 80,000 square-foot office building located in downtown Toronto. The ETFO wanted its headquarters to set an example for others, and established the objective of developing the greenest and most energy efficient commercial office building in the City of Toronto. 


  • The Challenge

    The project team wanted to create a building that would reflect the values of the organization: a headquarters that would be green, beneficial to its neighbourhood and wider community, and a pleasant and healthy place to be for staff, members and visitors. But the ETFO and its design team led by KPMB Architects had some constraints that made these objectives harder to reach. As a labour group representing over 76,000 teachers and other education professionals in the province of Ontario, the ETFO is a politically active body whose operational choices need to support its credibility and legitimacy among government actors and also among its own members. The organization therefore needed to develop a project that would meet its social and environmental objectives while remaining within a budget that would meet the approval of members, the public and the media. It was also working within a tight urban redevelopment site, which presented its own challenges.

  • Our Approach

    Collaboration was essential to enabling ETFO Headquarters to become a leading example of sustainable design. We worked closely with the KPMB-led design team and engaged in an iterative process, maintaining a constant dialogue about materials, green technology and design adjustments that would help the building meet its green objectives.

    We began by developing a framework for introducing design ideas, evaluating the merits and risks of particular choices, and revising design concepts. As the team worked together to develop and test new ideas, our green building specialists measured successive design iterations against the LEED rating system and the Toronto Green Standard. We also used an energy model to test and re-test design adaptations to measure their performance, and the difference they made to overall building performance.

    Our analysis and experience provided the technical and quantitative insights that gave the designers confidence to introduce a cutting-edge mechanical system featuring ground-source heat pumps (backed up by a more standard boiler system). We also developed a system of field-balance measures to mitigate potential for decreasing ground source performance over time.

    Our analysis also supported:

    The advanced selection and placement of glazing to minimize energy consumption while maximizing light penetration to the core of the building’s deep footprint. Natural light has been demonstrated to improve productivity while reducing stress, fatigue and sick days.

    The implementation of the largest green roof system in the city, which manages site storm water, captures rainwater from the site and uses the greywater to flush toilets and urinals. The terraced green roofs, visible from the building’s interior on multiple levels, also provide building occupants with a visual connection to nature in a dense urban space.

    Finally, since ETFO is an organization representing educators, it only made sense to educate ETFO staff, members and the public about the building’s sustainability features and the difference they make. We the client meet this goal as well, developing a series of educational videos for the organization’s website.

  • The Outcome

    The project earned LEED Platinum Certification, and became the first LEED for New Construction Platinum building in downtown Toronto. It thus fulfilled its two linked objectives of meeting a high green standard and of leading by example on sustainable development.

    The final energy model we produced for the ETFO HQ, incorporating all the final design choices, predicted a 64% energy cost reduction and the achievement of 10 of 10 possible Optimize Energy Performance (EAc1) points. Because of strong communication and effective collaboration between our consultants and the design and construction teams, we were able to submit the project’s LEED documentation just 2 weeks after substantial completion. The building earned its Platinum rating within five months of project completion, an unusually fast and efficient certification process.

    Building Highlights:

    • LEED Platinum Certified
    • 55 (of 70) LEED points achieved
    • 45% open space
    • 100% irrigation water reduction
    • 50% in-building potable water reduction
    • 60% energy cost reduction (10/10 LEED EAc1:Optimize Energy Performance points)
    • 95% construction waste diverted
    • 21% recycled content
    • 39% regional content
    • 81% FSC wood materials
    • 100% low-VOC (volatile organic compound) products