Retrofits to the 94-year-old Fairmont Royal York will reduce the hotel’s annual carbon emissions by 80% and generate over 35% in utility savings in the first year

Fairmont Royal York is one of Canada’s grand old hotels, having opened on Front Street West in downtown Toronto in 1929. The choice of Torontonians, tourists and royalty alike, Fairmont Royal York has seen renovations over the years, but nothing like the one completed in 2023.

In close collaboration with KingSett Capital, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and Enwave Energy Corporation, PCL Construction completed major retrofits to the building. The $65 million decarbonization project achieved net zero status after close to five years of detailed planning and execution. The retrofits will eliminate more than 7,000 tonnes of carbon annually, or 80% of the hotel’s annual carbon emissions.

As a result, Fairmont Royal York received the Canada Green Building Council’s (CAGBC’s) Zero Carbon Building – Performance StandardTM certification. 

Retrofitting the 94-year-old heritage building’s energy systems to be highly energy efficient was a complex challenge. The building’s certification was achieved by: 

  • Detailed study and analysis of building energy load, seeking to effect meaningful efficiencies
  • Converting heating and domestic hot water from steam to electric heat pumps
  • Converting cooling from electrical/chillers to deep lake water cooling, and 
  • Significantly improving energy efficiency with a centralized building automation system and smart technologies.

This decarbonization project offers a definitive roadmap for revitalizing comparable properties. “If a 94-year-old heritage asset can be decarbonized to achieve energy efficiency targets that reduce annual carbon emissions by 80% — while maintaining day to day operations as one of the most prestigious hotels in the country — the possibilities are endless,” said Marc Pascoli, Senior Vice President and District Manager, PCL Constructors Canada Inc. “With forward-thinking leadership and a positive mindset, investment, strategic partnerships, and a passionate pursuit of shared goals, PCL and our partners are proud to help chart the path to net zero.”

The retrofit of Fairmont Royal York demonstrates how partnership between the private and public sectors can meaningfully accelerate action towards meeting Canada’s carbon reduction commitments. The project was supported by the CIB’s Building Retrofits Initiative, which provided debt financing.

With its unparalleled location in Toronto's financial district and its proximity to Union Station, the hotel's decarbonization initiatives make it the ideal partner for both leisure travelers and major businesses to align their sustainability goals when booking conferences, events and guest room accommodations. 

Fairmont Royal York decarbonization project will eliminate more than 165,000 tonnes of carbon emissions between 2023 and 2050. 

The reduction of carbon emissions will generate over 35% in utility savings in the first year. All carbon emissions reductions will be independently verified by the CIB’s verifiers, as well as through the CaGBC.

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