Taking Geothermal to new heights in Halifax

“Think about your buildings differently and how you can work with Efficiency Nova Scotia to bridge the gap and make energy efficiency a reality."

Alex Halef, of BANC Group, is a developer and owner of mixed-use, mid and high-rise buildings in Halifax, including his most recent build, The Elevation. Working in partnership with Efficiency Nova Scotia (ENS), this multi-unit high-rise will use geothermal to heat and cool its 20-storeys.

What’s below the building is just as impressive.

Currently, under construction near Robie and Young street in Halifax’s North End, The Elevation will use a system of closed-loop geothermal boreholes for heating and cooling. In fact, it will be the first vertical geothermal field located underneath a multi-storey building, in all of Nova Scotia. What makes this geothermal system so unique is that, in addition to its exceptional heating and cooling capabilities, once the building is completed there will be no access to the system’s boreholes. The system was intentionally designed to be entirely contained underneath the building, out of view. When it came to the decision to use geothermal to heat and cool The Elevation, Alex says working with Efficiency Nova Scotia from the start helped identify it as the option that made the most sense from an environmental, logistical and economic standpoint. “I’ve always been somebody who has wanted to implement as energy efficient a system as possible, as economically as possible. I was never looking for the cheapest solution on how to heat and cool my buildings, I was always looking for what would make the most sense that would keep the carbon footprint down, keep energy costs down, but not be egregiously expensive as well, so it was a natural fit for me to be able to talk to Efficiency Nova Scotia about all their different types of systems and really get into the engineering of it.”

Partnering with Efficiency Nova Scotia, from the start.

Alex believes that reducing the carbon footprint of buildings, from day one, is as essential as the services and housing they provide. Which is why he has been working with Efficiency Nova Scotia for close to a decade on his many projects. “We treat our work with them much like a partnership,” says Halef, “both in terms of how they can help us implement the most efficient systems and how can they help us absorb some of those costs because they are a big factor.”

Over their ten year partnership, Alex has learned that “there’s a lot more to them than just changing out the lightbulbs” and that Efficiency Nova Scotia can help in many more and much larger ways, which is why he believes it’s important to work together from the beginning. “The more efficient the system, the more costly it is to install, so that’s where efficiency (ENS), comes in and helps bridge that gap and bring the payback period down,” says Halef. To help “bridge that gap”, Alex has taken advantage of the many programs offered by Efficiency Nova Scotia. But for large projects, such as The Elevation, Alex feels that the Custom New Construction program offered by Efficiency Nova Scotia is essential for making smart, long-term energy saving decisions, from the start.

For Alex, the energy modeling for The Elevation, supported by Efficiency Nova Scotia’s Custom New Construction program, was a critical factor in his decision to move forward with the geothermal heating and cooling system.

“So what you’re doing is creating an energy model, comparing a base system to a proposed custom system, and then measuring how many kilowatt hours of savings you would have and then your rebate comes in that way,” explains Halef.

Helpful advice to other developers.

For Alex and The Elevation, geothermal was the way to go. He encourages developers to not be intimidated by the complexities of incorporating energy efficient systems into their builds because “It’s the way of the future,” says Halef.

“I don’t think we can bury our heads in the sand. We need to stay on top of the most up-to-date means by which we can heat and cool these buildings as efficiently as possible.”

Alex acknowledges that it’s not easy but that’s where Efficiency Nova Scotia comes in. His advice to other developers is to “Think about your buildings differently and how you can work with Efficiency Nova Scotia to bridge the gap and make energy efficiency a reality. The best thing to do when you’re doing a custom program is to really engage them at the beginning to figure out the right approach.” And finally, he encourages developers to take advantage of the fact that Efficiency Nova Scotia is “there to help, as a partner”.

Explore how energy efficiency can be used to help propel your next commercial building project forward. If you’re interested in enjoying the good things efficiency brings, get started today.