Glebe Community Centre is focus of energy innovation

GCC project team reviews preliminary findings of Algonquin College study. From left: Bill Nuttle (GCA), Pablo Medina-Villanuva (Algonquin), Angela Keller-Herzog (GCA), John Humphries (GCA), Rajbir Singh Bambey (Algonquin) Photo: Zachary Spence

by Bill Nuttle

Anyone who has happened by the Glebe Community Centre in recent months will be forgiven for thinking that energy is not a major concern. GNAG’s summer activities assure that there is an endless supply of youthful energy and talent. However, the Glebe Community Association (GCA) launched a project this summer that takes steps toward the goal of energy sustainability.


In the short-term, this fall the project will make long-needed changes to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the nearly 100-year-old structure. The project also includes a detailed analysis of the building’s current energy use as a first step toward the long-term goal of a 50 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint.

This project builds on Ottawa’s Community Energy Evolution Strategy, which is designed to foster a transition toward greater use of renewable energy. The GCA’s volunteer project team applied for and received a generous grant of $58,000 from the city’s new Community Energy Innovation Fund. The remainder of the project’s total $79,000 cost is shared between the GCA and the city’s Building Engineering and Energy Management (BEEM) unit.

Building Changes

The most visible change will be the replacement of the large basement windows along the sides of the building facing Lyon Street and the tennis courts.

“If everything goes to plan, the new windows will be installed in the spring of 2019,” says John Humphries, GCA’s volunteer manager for the project. Visitors might also notice new occupancy sensors that will be installed in some of the public meeting areas.

Existing basement windows, installed when the building was built, will be replaced with “super windows,” the first time this window technology will be used in a city building. The new technology promises significantly higher R-values than typical new double- or triple-pane windows commonly used now; the insulating performance will be 10 times better. The performance of the new windows will be assessed, both for energy savings and aesthetics. If successful, the GCA project could lead to further adoption of this window technology in other city buildings and even in homes.

The community centre is already a “smart building,” meaning that heating and air conditioning needs are closely monitored and controlled. The new occupancy sensors will allow engineers to keep track of how the public spaces are used and fine tune the system accordingly. The city’s BEEM group is leading this aspect of the project, and they will be closely monitoring system performance and energy use in the building to document the effectiveness of the new measures.

Working in the background, faculty and students from Algonquin College’s Construction Research Centre have been engaged in a project to make detailed measurements of the community centre, to be used to construct an energy model that will allow them to recommend further improvements to reduce the building’s energy use. Work by the Algonquin team includes thermographic imaging to identify opportunities to improve the building’s energy efficiency by sealing air leaks. This will be a less visible, but still very important, aspect of the efficiency upgrades to the community centre.


Angela Keller-Herzog, co-chair of the GCA’s Environment Committee, describes the project’s benefits thus: “If we want to keep this heritage building going, we need to reduce costs, reduce energy consumption, reduce the carbon footprint. Right now, frankly, the Glebe Community Centre is an energy and carbon glutton. It is the highest energy-consuming community centre in the city, with utility bills of around $100K per year.”

In terms of immediate benefits, community centre users should see an improvement in the comfort in the basement kindergarten area and the General Purpose room where the new windows will be installed. The city should see a reduction in its energy bills. But, ultimately, this project is about the renewal and sustainability of a key resource that energizes the Glebe community.

Bill Nuttle is a member of the CGA Environment Committee.


Green Energy

Local residents make sustainability an election issue

by Paul Cairns

The residents of Ottawa will be descending on Lansdowne Park this September 22 to participate in Green Energy Doors Open (GEDO) in an effort to combat climate change. GEDO, an annual green energy event, has received added enthusiasm from local green enthusiasts. This year they intend to make Ottawa’s sustainability file an election issue. Included will be a mayoral candidates’ panel and a Capital Ward candidates’ panel on sustainability. The panels will discuss each candidate’s plans for green initiatives in the city. Also included will be a panel with representatives from all three levels of government focusing on what residents can do to move sustainability forward.

Green Energy Doors Open highlights the achievements of local organizations and businesses and helps residents learn everything they need to know about sustainable products and lifestyles from local experts. Some attractions this year include an Electric Vehicle Exhibition (September 22); an Energy Showcase (September 22) with local green experts; panel discussions to dispel the myths of electric vehicles and solar; and discussions on a zero-waste lifestyle, micro-grid homes, and how to repurpose, reduce and recycle materials in your home or business.

Furthermore, there will be various host sites in the region opening their doors from Friday, September 21 through Sunday, September 23, showcasing their local passive house, organic local farming, a tiny home and many more exciting initiatives.

“It’s definitely the place to go to learn about any question you may have on the sustainable file,” says Raymonde Lemire of SMARTNet Alliance.

Be sure to drop in at the Horticulture Building this September 22 at 10 a.m. or visit for details.

Paul Cairns is executive director of SMARTNet Alliance (


I don’t want to use a plastic bag – but what else is there?

Boomerang Bags Ottawa, a group with a mission to educate on the environmental dangers of single-use plastic bags, hosted a table at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this year to display their plastic bag alternative – homemade fabric tote bags. The group seeks volunteers.

by Donna Mandeville

You may have noticed a table at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this year that displayed funky homemade fabric tote bags.

They were made by a new group called Boomerang Bags Ottawa with a mission to help educate people about the environmental problems caused by single-use plastic bags. Our group offers people a sturdy – and beautiful – alternative.

We sew the bags from recycled fabric scraps (lots of old sheets and curtains) and give them away. It’s our contribution to helping the environment.

It’s also a lot of fun. We’ve held “sewing bees” at the Sunnyside branch of the public library and in members’ homes to snip, cut, sew and, of course, chat. The bags feature a silk-screened logo, a part of the creation process that several children involved in the group have taken pride in mastering.

I was inspired to learn how to sew after being given a lovely quilt when my second child was a baby. Over the years I have accumulated quite the stash of fabric, which has come in useful for this new group! Part of what I love about quilting is doing it with friends, and that’s also why Boomerang Bags has been a great project for me.

We hope to expand our band of 40 volunteers, eventually setting up chapters across the city.

We also want to connect with businesses and other organizations that share the same goals, and target communities in need to hand out the bags.

Our group is part of a world-wide movement that began in Australia in 2013. There are now more than 700 Boomerang Bag chapters.

Around the world, one million single-use plastic bags are used every minute, according to the Boomerang Bags HQ website. Only a tiny percentage is recycled. Most end up in landfills or washed to sea where they strangle, choke and kill turtles, fish and other marine life.

In some areas of the ocean, concentrations of plastic are 40 times greater than that of plankton, according to Boomerang Bags. Marine animals that eat shreds of plastic, mistaking it as food, suffer internal blockages, dehydration and starvation.

In Ottawa, single-use plastic bags cannot be recycled through the municipal recycling program, so many end up in landfills or in our water systems.

Sewing reusable cloth bags is one small part of the solution. Boomerang Bags chapters “create a platform to start conversations, make friends, up-cycle materials and work towards shifting society’s throw-away mentality to a more sustainable revolution of re-use – one community, needle and thread at a time,” in the words of the HQ website.

Do you sew or know someone who does? Or do you want to tune up your sewing skills? The sewing is not difficult, by the way – one of the group’s keenest volunteers is a nine-year-old who can whip up her own bags using her mom’s sewing machine. Or would you like to help out by cutting fabric, silk screening or organizing? Do you have skills in PR, advertising, media relations or anything else you think might come in handy for recruitment?

Everyone is welcome!

For more information check out the Facebook page @boomerangbagsottawa or Instagram@boomerangbagsottawa.

Donna Mandeville is a Glebe resident who is a founding member of Boomerang Bags Ottawa.

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