The YMCA of Greater Toronto is working to reduce its carbon footprint and increase their resiliency so they can continue supporting the community even (and especially) during times of emergency. District energy was considered during the design of the charity’s Cooper Koo Family YMCA in the West Don Lands of Toronto. This facility was a legacy project of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan American Games Athletes’ Village. Waterfront Toronto’s initial plan for the neighbourhood included district energy. A few district energy pipes were even installed before the plan was abandoned to meet tight construction timelines. With many new developments planned for the neighbourhood, the YMCA is currently engaging partners in the community to build on Waterfront Toronto’s work to realize a resilient and low-carbon community energy system for the West Don Lands.


  • YMCA of Greater Toronto – Project lead and host organization
  • Mantle314 – Project manager
  • Prime Strategy & Planning – Planning lead
  • Opus One Energy Solutions – Technical lead
  • QUEST Canada – District energy lead
  • Natural Resources Canada – Funding and resource partner


  • West Don Lands, Toronto.
  • The initial neighbourhood phases were built as the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan American Games Athletes’ Village and housed 10,000 athletes on 14 hectares (35 acres).
  • After the Games were completed, the neighbourhood transitioned into a residential community featuring condominiums, affordable housing, George Brown College’s first student residence, the Toronto region’s newest YMCA health and fitness location, and new retail and restaurant spaces.
  • The neighbourhood is undergoing a construction boom, with many new residential and commercial buildings planned over the next decade.

The Challenge

The YMCA of Greater Toronto strives to be a leader in supporting the local community and recognized its ongoing support would be challenged during times of emergency disruptions such as floods and ice storms, which are increasing due to climate change.

The charity first focused on reducing its carbon footprint and is now also focusing on increasing its resiliency. The YMCA of Greater Toronto is working to turn its facilities into a network of Community Resilience Centres. The YMCA is installing high-efficiency backup power systems to reduce the carbon footprint of its owned buildings while allowing these locations to remain operational during extended electricity grid power failures.

The Cooper Koo Family YMCA provided a unique opportunity because it is located in a fast-developing and high-density neighbourhood where the initial district energy vision and work by Waterfront Toronto could be built upon.

For the Y, the path to success was not clear, but it realized it needed to take a leadership role to coordinate effort across governments, institutions and the private sector.


The YMCA anchors and facilitates the district energy vision

The West Don Lands in Toronto was home to the Athletes’ Village for Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. District energy formed a part of the original vision for the village but had to be abandoned mid-development to meet the tight construction timelines required by the Games. District energy pipes were laid connecting roughly eight construction blocks south of the YMCA and four blocks in the north east corner of the West Don Lands.

With the games successfully over, the Y wanted to help inform the vision for the next phase of the neighbourhood’s development. With a district energy foundation in place and over a dozen new developments coming to the neighbourhood over the coming decade, the YMCA got to work to see if it could help support the achievement of Waterfront Toronto’s original vision for a community energy system.

Getting district energy-ready with support

Working with its climate strategy consultants, Mantle314, the YMCA received funding from Natural Resources Canada to explore strategies for developing a resilient, low-carbon community energy system in the West Don Lands. Through the funding, the YMCA created a project team and advisory team consisting of leading strategists, planning experts, and technical experts to help guide its planning and engagement, while at the same time sharing their lessons learned, including developing this website.

Planning and engagement continues

The City of Toronto developed guidelines for building developers and owners, architects, and engineers to support the design of buildings that are ready for connection to a district energy system (“DE-ready”). However, the city generally has no requirement that buildings be DE-ready in areas where the district energy potential is high.

The YMCA is meeting with local developers and utilities to build a coalition behind the project and has signaled its interest as a technology host; the work continues. The Y hopes the dialogue between neighbours will lead to a future low-carbon, resilient community-energy system while strengthening the bonds of the community and protecting it against future energy disruptions. This case study will continue to be updated as new developments arise.

Creating a resilience node

The YMCA’s vision for the West Don Lands district energy system is focused on being one low-carbon and resilient node among many. Developed in partnership with Waterfront Toronto, Infrastructure Ontario, and the Province of Ontario, the Cooper Koo Family YMCA located at 461 Cherry Street is a LEED Gold building, housing a large green roof, and a micro-grid including seven electric vehicle charging stations, a battery back-up and a small solar array.

The Y is also working to install a high efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) generator along with additional solar panel and battery capacity – enough to remain operational in a blackout – at the Cooper Koo Family YMCA.





The Results

The results are pending further developments.


Since 2008, across their portfolio of owned facilities, the YMCA of Greater Toronto has achieved the following reductions:


Carbon footprint


Energy Spending

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