Greening the Embassy

Since its completion in 1989, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, has been envied for its location and admired for its architecture. But the building also reflects Canada's commitment to protecting our environment. That commitment — whether improving energy efficiency, reducing water use, curbing emissions or raising awareness about environmental issues — is manifest in a number of exciting Embassy initiatives.


The Embassy of Canada Awarded Prestigious LEED® Silver Green Building Certification

LEED Silver certificationIn November 2014, the Embassy of Canada was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver certification. The LEED rating system is an internationally recognised program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

The Embassy achieved LEED certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Some examples of improvements to the building include:

  • Replacing chillers, boilers, furnaces and air conditioning units with new, highly efficient models
  • Upgrading the Building Maintenance System that controls heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Installing energy recovery ventilation and motion sensor activated lighting throughout the embassy

Embassy of Canada Earns EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Certification

ENERGY STARIn May 2014, the Embassy earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR certification, which signifies that the building performs in the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA. Commercial buildings that earn EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings and also release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Embassy improved its energy performance by managing energy strategically across the entire organization and by undergoing a comprehensive building retrofit to improve the efficiency of key building systems.

Renewable Energy Credits

The Embassy of Canada lowers its carbon footprint through efficiency improvements, employee training and investments in green technology. To bring our remaining footprint to zero, the embassy also purchases renewable wind energy credits to offset 100% of energy use. The 3,641,487 kWh of CleanSteps™ Wind Power energy credits purchased in 2014 offsets approximately 2,569 metric tons of carbon dioxide, an environmental benefit equivalent to taking 535 cars off the road for one year, or not consuming 288,000 gallons of gasoline.

Energy Retrofit Project

In January 2010, the Embassy embarked on a comprehensive energy retrofit project to improve the building's energy efficiency. This project will greatly reduce the Embassy's energy needs and, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our facility.

We expect this project to realize a decrease of $320,000 a year in energy spending, through reduced consumption of electricity, natural gas and water. While the energy efficiency numbers are impressive, the net environmental benefits are even more substantial: Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by approximately 250 tons per year — that's the equivalent of 44 passenger vehicles taken off the road or the electricity supply for 32 homes.

Project Summary: Annual Savings

  • Costs : $319,924
  • Electricity : 1,832,588 kWh ($242,403)
  • Natural Gas : 47,144 therms : ($31,058)
  • Water : 1,825 m3 ($17,030)

Staff Bicycle Program

The Bicycle Program began in May 2010 and provides Embassy employees with the complimentary use of bicycles as a healthy and environmentally-friendly alternate means of transportation while performing their normal duties or commuting to and from work.

Eight Whistler 10 bicycles produced by Vancouver-based Rocky Mountain Bicycles are available to staff, with the fleet expanding as demand increases. These bicycles were financed through the sale of one of Embassy's official vehicles.

Greening the Embassy Fleet

The Embassy purchased its first hybrid vehicle in 2005 and there are now three hybrid, one Eco Boost and three Flex Fuel vehicles in the fleet.

Rooftop Garden

In June 2011, the Embassy established a herb and vegetable garden on the 6th floor balcony of the Chancery. Each spring Embassy staff volunteer to plan and tend the garden, and the produce is used at official hospitality events and in the Embassy cafeteria.

Embassy Greening Committee

The Embassy of Canada's Greening Committee is continually looking for ways to decrease the environmental impact of the building in its day-to-day operation. In addition to brainstorming initiatives such as the bicycle program and the Embassy rooftop garden, the committee share tips with staff on conserving energy both in the office and at home.

D.C. Greening Embassies Forum

On April 21, 2010, Secretary Clinton officially launched the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum, which convenes foreign missions to exchange ideas on environmental issues and operational practices. With extensive retrofits and green initiatives already in place at the Embassy, Canada welcomes the opportunity to share best practices and expertise within the diplomatic and D.C. community at large.

Embassy Hosts DC Greening Embassies Forum

Washington, D.C., November 14, 2012 — The Embassy of Canada, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, hosted the D.C. Greening Embassies Forum on Sustainable Fleets and Commuting. Ambassador Doer discussed energy efficiency improvements at the Embassy, as well as ways in which the Embassy has greened its fleet of vehicles and implemented a staff bicycle program. Several low emission and alternative fuel vehicles were on display, including the Volkswagen TDI, Chevrolet Volt, and Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year, the Tesla Model S.

This was the second DC Greening Embassies Forum event hosted by the Embassy of Canada. The first, on September 21, 2010, in partnership with the Earth Day Network and the U.S. Department of State, featured two information sessions providing practical information that Embassies and other organizations can use to reduce their environmental footprint while lowering operating costs.

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Description of the Work Implemented

Building Automation System (BAS)

A BAS is a network of computer panels that controls the building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. The Embassy BAS system will be updated and energy savings control strategies will be implemented, including:

  • "Optimum Start-Stop" — a self-adjusting strategy that determines the optimum time to start and stop ventilation systems based on occupancy and space conditions.
  • Ventilation control based on measurement of space indoor air quality that will measure CO, CO2, organic odours and humidity
  • "Free cooling" operation on ventilation system that will maximize the use of outdoor air to cool the Embassy when the outside air temperature and humidity is low and the building needs cooling.

Free Cooling Heat Exchanger

There is currently a 500-ton cooling plant in the mechanical penthouse that provides cooling for the building. The cooling plant operates continuously throughout the year due to the internal cooling requirements of the Embassy.

A 100-ton heat exchanger will be installed in parallel with the cooling plant that will capture the cold outside air and assist the cooling plant in providing air conditioning to the Embassy.

Energy Recovery Ventilators

During normal operation, the Embassy requires 21,000 ft3/minute of outside air ventilation. This ventilation is brought into the building through ventilation systems. The air is conditioned as required before it is distributed to the building. This takes a lot of energy, so in order to maintain the building at proper pressurization levels, exhaust fans exhaust air from the building at the same time.

Two energy recovery ventilators will be installed on the roof of the Embassy and ducted to the outdoor air and exhaust air systems to transfer useable energy from the exhausts to the ventilation air systems.

Variable Speed Drives (VSD)

Variable speed drives are electrical devices used to control the speed of motors in response to measurement of variables. Fifty eight VSD’s will be installed on various motors at the Embassy. Some of the applications include:

  • Replacement of older technology used to vary the flow of air.
  • Kitchen exhaust control by measuring heat/vapour over the cooking equipment.
  • Washroom exhaust control by measuring occupancy in the washrooms.
  • Garage exhaust control by measuring carbon monoxide in the garage.
  • Water pumping control by measuring optimum pressure requirements.

Lighting Retrofits

Lighting makes up about 17% of the energy use in the Embassy. Fluorescent lighting makes up the biggest portion of the use. Fluorescent lamps and ballasts will be replaced with newer technology that will reduce the energy use by 25%. The new lighting also provides better quality of light.

Other lighting retrofits include:

  • LED lighting will replace incandescent lighting which will reduce energy use by 80%.
  • Occupancy sensors will be installed in seventy locations including offices, storage, staff room, washrooms, meeting rooms and corridors.
  • Parking garage lighting will be replaced to provide energy savings and better lighting conditions.

Power Factor Correction

Power Factor (PF) is a measure of how effectively electrical current is being converted into useful work. The Embassy power factor varied between 65% and 80%. The cause of this is most likely a combination of computers and motors. The electrical utility charges a penalty for any power factor less than 90%. Power factor correction equipment will be installed to reduce this penalty.

Water Conservation

The Embassy has undergone numerous water conservation initiatives over the past few years. Existing water closets and urinals have been upgraded with infrared (IR) flush valves with single flush electronic battery powered sensors. Fifty two toilets will be retrofitted with dual-flush infrared electronic battery powered sensor upgrades.

Solar Power

Alternative sources of energy are a crucial part of addressing energy issues and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) is committed to encourage this approach at its facilities. As such, we are investigating the implementation of a photovoltaic panel installation that would generate electricity at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. If carried out, this project would be the first one of this scale for the Department. In addition to other initiatives that will reduce overall energy demand, the anticipated solar project could generate up to 55 kwh or approximately 0.4% of daytime electricity demand. This measure would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by five tons annually.