Diverso aims to expand geothermal in buildings

Original Article by Steve McLean of Sustainable BIZ Canada.

Diverso Energy is looking to increase the use of geothermal heating and cooling systems in buildings with a business model it believes benefits both developers and occupants.

“We created a utility-like model, where we design, build, own and operate the geothermal system — removing the cost and risk, and allowing developers to build low-carbon, energy-efficient buildings,” Diverso partner and co-founder Jon Mesquita told RENX.

Geothermal energy originates from the heat retained within the Earth. It can be extracted for use in heating and cooling buildings.

Diverso Energy’s geothermal system will be utilized in the new The Plant development in Toronto.

Diverso Energy’s geothermal system will be utilized in the new The Plant development in Toronto.

Geothermal energy and cost savings

Geothermal systems reduce carbon emissions by an average of 80 per cent and total energy consumption by 25 to 30 per cent in the typical multi-unit residential building, according to Mesquita. He said it eliminates 100 per cent of carbon emissions and reduces total energy consumption by 15 to 20 per cent in a typical office building.

While the savings are appealing, and becoming more so with the increased focus on sustainability and climate change, many developers have held back on installing geothermal systems due to cost concerns. Mesquita believes Diverso’s model will change that.

“With every Diverso Energy installation, the developer saves money by removing cooling towers and heating boilers and replacing them with our free geothermal system. We charge them nothing to install it.

“Once the building is up and running, we have a monthly charge that the owner would pay to Diverso Energy, similar to any other utility. To ensure that the long-term owner benefits financially as well, we will only engage in projects where we can verify that our charge is fully offset by savings.”

Mesquita said developers using the Waterloo, Ont.-based company’s system also benefit from:

* roof space which can be reallocated to amenities or, in some cases, additional saleable or leasable space;

* improved aesthetics due to the absence of a cooling tower;

* and marketability, as benchmarking programs help low-carbon, energy-efficient buildings stand out.

Diverso financial partnership

Diverso and Montreal-based Eolectric Capital Inc. entered a strategic and financial partnership worth $55 million last November.

“With over 25 years of experience and $500 million in renewable energy assets, coupled with their relationship with a $2-billion labour fund, they provided the source of long-term patient capital required to provide developers confidence we could deliver on our commitments and assurance that our long-term interests were aligned,” said Mesquita.

While multi-unit residential, office and institutional building owners have embraced Diverso’s approach more than others, Mesquita said it can fit with a variety of different types of structures.

Diverso’s system is typically more easily incorporated into new construction projects, but Mesquita said it can work in building retrofits. The structure must have a mechanical system compatible with geothermal and available land on which to drill.

Diverso projects

Diverso’s Ontario projects include:

* the 80,000-square-foot Alice Block condominium being developed by Momentum Developments and Zehr Group in Guelph;

* the 300,000-square-foot Garment Street Condos being developed by Momentum in Kitchener;

* the 320,000-square-foot Westwood Gardens condo being developed by Collecdev in Richmond Hill;

* the 500,000-square-foot Lillian Park multi-family residential project developed by Shiplake Properties near Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue in Toronto;

* the 150,000-square-foot Genesis On The Park apartments by Manett Residences in Brampton;

* the 185,000-square-foot The Residences of The Hotel McGibbon condo developed by Silvercreek in Georgetown;

* and the 90,000-square-foot Brookhouse Gate condo developed by BrightStar Corporation in Newcastle.

Diverso has partnered with Windmill Developments and Curated Properties on the sold-out The Plant at the foot of Dovercourt Avenue in Toronto’s West Queen West area. This 120,000-square-foot, 10-storey condo will have two levels of retail and office space when it opens this fall.

The development is targeting the Toronto Green Standard Tier 2. With no mechanical equipment on the roof, the space is given over to a rooftop terrace and community vegetable garden.

Diverso will build, own, maintain and operate the building’s geothermal system for 30 years, after which the condo owners can choose to buy it. It also helps condo owners predict and control operating costs, maintenance fees and capital improvement investments.

Diverso just finished drilling for the 248,000-square-foot Tretti Condos, a Collecdev project near Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. It will soon start drilling for a few more projects, including the 150,000-square-foot Merge Condos being developed by LCH Developments in the Cliffside neighbourhood in Scarborough.

“We have a number of other projects scheduled for 2020, with most of them located in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Mesquita.

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