Celebrated every year on April 22, Earth Day is the largest environmental event in the world. It’s a time dedicated to thinking about how environmental issues are being addressed in our country and our communities.

We recently took a look at how three Canadian companies and their green technologies are changing the world around us. However, it’s important to know that getting these green technologies into buildings isn’t a simple task. That’s where Tower Labs comes in.

Catalyzing real change in real estate

Tower Labs is a non-profit organization founded by Tridel, a major highrise real estate developer in Toronto, and MaRS. The organization’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of clean and renewable low-impact technology, products and materials by connecting real estate clients directly with new technologies. Tower Labs has recently developed its own branded net zero condo suite model called NetZED, which is short for “net zero energy dwelling.”

A NetZED building has no utility bills.

A NetZED home produces as much energy as—or more than—it consumes. The excess energy it generates during the day is transferred into the condominium building system and is then taken back out of the building’s grid at night. It’s a condo where the utility bills would be equal to (or net to) zero at the end of the year.

Here’s the rundown on some NetZED features.

  • High efficient HVAC systems and energy recovery ventilators
  • Solar thermal collectors
  • LED lighting
  • Control panel and dashboard to monitor energy usage
  • Photovoltaic panels
  • Domestic hot water hybrid heat pump systems

Q&A with Subhi Alsayed of Tower Labs

I sat down with Subhi Alsayed, director of projects at Tower Labs, to talk about real estate, pilot programs and commercialization.

Could you tell me about your pilot programs?

Our business model is to get new technology into the market by reducing the risk of adoption for real estate stakeholders. We do this by introducing the technology in a pilot or demonstration project. The difference between pilot programs and full-building implementation is that the pilot is on a small scale. For example, a pilot program could be completed in one suite of a highrise condo instead of the entire building. By testing only one suite, the financial and performance risks of unproven technologies are lessened significantly.

What do you offer to entrepreneurs?

We have a deep understanding of the challenges that are being faced in real estate. It’s a huge benefit to startups because entrepreneurs might come with a specific area of implementation, but we frequently recommend alternative ways that their technologies could be more valuable for the industry. We work to help them update and build their business model based on what is needed in the highrise market.

We also look out for technologies that will be needed not just today, but in five or 10 years from now. We need to continuously look forward and anticipate changes in codes and standards, which could help guide emerging technologies. The goal is to be prepared for when these become mandated to ensure that we invest in technologies that will work within these guidelines.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the green technology space?

Sometimes layers of functionality might not be what people are looking for. It’s important to design and create technologies that homeowners know how to use and that the trades will be able to install. Always work to simplify what you do without compromising the value.

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Sarah Aspler

Sarah Aspler was a Communications Assistant at MaRS. Sarah recently graduated with a bachelor of technology from Ryerson University in Toronto. See more…