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Eden Mills Community Hall to reach carbon neutrality next year

Environmentally friendly - Key contributors to the Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral project, Charles Simon, left, and Robert Lay say the Eden Mills Community Hall will essentially be carbon neutral next year.  Photo by Jaime Myslik

Eden Mills Community Hall to reach carbon neutrality next year

by Jaime Myslik

EDEN MILLS -  “By 2018 we’re confident we can say we’re essentially carbon neutral,” said Eden Mills Community Club secretary Robert Lay of the Eden Mills Community Hall.

“What that means is ... we’ll have reduced our energy use to the point where we can generate enough solar to offset the carbon that we still use by using electricity and using a little bit of propane.”

In 2007, the village launched Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral and now, 10 years later, the community hall is on the cusp of carbon neutrality.

The movement began as a grass roots project to empower citizens to reduce their own carbon emissions.

“There were all sorts of educational activities,” Lay said.

“There were seminars on energy conservation and renewable energy and alternative modes of transportation and carbon sequestration and forestry and so on.”

The idea was that each resident in the village would have their carbon emissions measured and they would try to reduce that value.

Charles Simon, a “green” architect and one of the founders of Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral, said in 2007 they explained to residents, “we don’t want this to be just a feel-good thing, but we want to be really firm.”

One of the major landmarks in the village is the community hall, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Hall ownership is split 50-50 between the Eden Mills Community Club and Guelph-Eramosa Township.

Lay, the lead engineer on hall upgrades and renovations, said the community club has spent about $460,000 to improve accessibility and energy efficiency.

After completing an energy audit, in 2012 and 2013 the community club began by plugging leaks in the building and windows.

In 2015 the club insulated one side of the building and the three remaining walls were completed this year, largely due to a Canada 150 Infrastructure Grant.  

“Before two months ago, there was no insulation here,” Lay said. “Solid rock foundation, solid brick upstairs.”

Simon added, “And stone and brick really have virtually nothing in terms of insulation.”

The community club applied for the grant with a project worth about $237,000, which included the insulation as well as upgrades to the interior of the hall. The Canada 150 Infrastructure Grant covered about $118,000 - half the project price tag.

Over the past decade the community club has upgraded sections of the hall.

In 2013 the club replaced one of two propane furnaces with an electric heat pump, which is also an air conditioner. The other furnace was replaced this year.

“Propane dropped dramatically ... and then electricity went up to run the heat pump,” Lay said.

To offset energy use – and cost – the club installed solar collectors on the hall’s roof this year, Lay said.

“The whole purpose of buildings is to live in them so you have to light and refrigerate food, cook your food so you’ve got to use energy,” he said. “You have to get that down to the point where the amount of energy you can generate on the property will offset (what) you’re using.”

In the summer, when the solar panels are generating more energy than the hall requires, Simon explained the hall will bank energy with Hydro One.

Then in the winter, when not as much energy is being generated, the hall can use that banked energy.

The solar collector installation was one of the biggest challenges the community club faced during the retrofits, Lay said.

“We only had three buildings that got solar collectors put on them before Hydro One cut off access to their wires, you couldn’t hook up anymore,” he said.

“So for seven or eight years there were people that wanted to go solar and weren’t allowed to and just last year they gave access to their wires again.

“So this building would have been solar years ago.”

Now the hall’s solar panels are hooked up to the Hydro One grid.

While Lay says the Eden Mills Community Hall is likely the most significant carbon neutral building in the village, Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral is an entire village affair.

However, Simon said the results from the most recent survey, which  measures individual carbon emissions, were inaccurate so it is impossible to measure how close the village is to complete carbon neutrality.

“We’ve had small reductions in household energy emissions and the carbon sequestration by the community forest has been a significant portion of the emissions that the village is responsible for,” Lay said.   

Carbon sequestration means trees and plants absorb a certain amount of carbon dioxide, reducing the village’s overall carbon emissions.

Ten years ago, at the launch of Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral, trees and other vegetation were already absorbing about 50% of the village’s emissions, Simon said.

Through tree planting the village has increased its carbon sequestration by 6%.

Lay said Canada needs to look at ways to retrofit older houses and buildings to reduce carbon emissions rather than relying solely on new builds.

Simon said energy conservation practices are also important.

For more information visit www.goingcarbonneutral.ca.

 

October 6, 2017

 
 

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