Rising energy costs are impacting not only companies' budgets, but the daily lives of tenants living in affordable housing. New Dawn Enterprises faced this challenge head-on by committing to energy efficiency upgrades across its residential properties. Erika Shea, President/CEO of New Dawn Enterprises, shares insights on their transformative journey toward sustainability, the challenges they faced, and the lessons learned along the way.  

The journey to energy efficiency  

GMF: What drove New Dawn Enterprises to focus on energy efficiency?  

Erika Shea: The impact of rising energy costs was significant for both our budgets and the quality of life of our tenants, some of whom were spending twice their rent on monthly utility bills. Our foray into energy efficiency began through the Efficiency Nova Scotia (ENS) Affordable Housing program. We've been upgrading properties over the past few years, with Pine Tree Park being the final community requiring a comprehensive energy efficiency overhaul.  

GMF: How did Pine Tree Park Estates evolve as a special project within this initiative?  

ES: Pine Tree Park, given its expansive land area, introduced the opportunity for on-site renewables. It served as the meeting point for conversations on energy efficiency at the operational level and the construction of a large solar array at the developmental level. This convergence made energy efficiency a central focus of the project.  

Decision-making and stakeholder buy-in  

GMF: Can you talk about the process of aligning decision-makers within the organization?  

ES: We're fortunate that our Board and key decision-makers appreciate both the climate and financial benefits of energy efficiency. Government support is increasing, and technologies are becoming more accessible, which made our case stronger. However, the Board needed a comprehensive understanding of the financial and technical risks. We facilitated meetings with the Verschuren Centre to address these concerns and engaged them in the potential that such a project introduced.  

Toward net zero  

GMF: This project became a net zero initiative. How did that come about?  

ES: The Verschuren Centre, early in the planning phase, identified the potential for this project to be net-zero—the first of its kind on Cape Breton Island. We were more than happy to adopt this vision into the project design.  

Project planning and design  

GMF: Can you discuss the methodology applied in prioritizing energy efficiency measures?  

ES: The project was divided into five phases, from planning to monitoring. We commissioned energy audits through Efficiency Nova Scotia, performed by the Clean Foundation, to identify the greatest energy-saving measures. Tenders were then circulated for the electrical and mechanical work, as well as for construction.  

Lessons learned and future advice  

GMF: What advice would you share with other organizations looking to undertake similar initiatives?  

ES: Start with a deep understanding of the energy inefficiencies in your existing structures. Work collaboratively at all levels of your organization and be prepared to iterate your plans as you go along. Finally, communicate clearly and regularly with your decision-makers, especially when navigating the complexities of funding and financing.