CECA U of T Volunteering at CRWC’s Children’s Programs

Community outreach is both a crucial part of the Green Energy Challenge and one of our team’s core values. We are enthusiastic about sharing our passion for sustainable buildings with CRWC so that they can understand how our work ties into their mission of serving the public.

During the past two weeks, CRWC welcomed us to volunteer in their children’s programs, where our Community Engagement team hosted several workshops on different sustainability concepts and joined in some active games! We were excited to be working with young minds, from ages 6 to 12, and get them engaged in becoming stewards of our environment.

Children’s Literacy Program

In this program, we hosted two workshops. The first involved colouring activities that challenged the children to identify electrical appliances and renewable energy sources. From this workshop, the children became more aware of the little actions they can take (such as turning off and unplugging household electrical appliances) to save energy. Also, they became fascinated by where all of this energy even came from and why we should take care of these resources that our environment provides.

Our volunteering team eagerly prepared for the workshops before the children arrived.


The masterpieces the children created taught them about energy conservation initiatives around the house and the positive impacts of renewable energy sources.

Our second workshop was a disposal bin sorting activity. We had pictures of a garbage bin, a recycling bin, and an organic waste bin along with little cutouts of different disposal items. The challenge for the children was to drop each item into the correct bin. They worked together in teams to learn about how proper disposal can reduce landfill waste, which in turn benefits the health of our environment.

We set up this fun activity that taught the children about putting garbage where it belongs to reduce landfill waste.

We ended the day by giving each child a cool certificate, rewarding them for learning about sustainability, and had them write down one thing they learned from our workshops. It was a great time for the children to reflect on how they can apply these new insights to their daily lives to continuously help the environment. In the meantime, our volunteers also learned a lot, as shown in the pictures below.

We reflected on the challenges and rewards of working with children on our awards!

Overall, we were very satisfied with how smoothly the workshops ran and how much we got to connect with the children. We hope that our hard work has empowered these new Canadians to become more mindful of their actions and to do their part to take care of the environment.

Children’s Fitness Programs

After our first successful volunteering event, CRWC graciously hosted us the following week for their Children’s Fitness Program. Two of our volunteers joined the CRWC’s facilitators to play a friendly game of quidditch with the children. It was awesome to see some familiar faces from our previous time there! The children were quite energized and cheered on each round of this fun game!

Our volunteers and CRWC facilitators rested at the end of an energetic game of quidditch!

Finally, our team had an amazing time joining CRWC’s volunteer programs and getting to bond with the children. It definitely was a unique experience spreading awareness of sustainability to a younger generation! We would like to thank CRWC for helping us organize our outreach events and our team members for dedicating their time for a great cause!

Further Readings

We had a great time teaching children about taking the initiative from an early age to take care of our planet, especially with Earth Day fast approaching (Sunday, April 22). With that in mind, we’d like to also share some links for those curious about how they can join in (if they haven’t already):

All about Earth Day: https://www.earthday.org/

Earth Day celebration events around Toronto: http://www.toronto4kids.com/March-2018/Where-to-Celebrate-Earth-Day-in-the-City/

Simple tips on how to help the environment everyday: https://greatist.com/happiness/ways-help-environment

Also, for those who aren’t familiar with quidditch from Harry Potter, here’s what this game is all about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A6z7R-aaDw




Working on the 2018 Green Energy Challenge Proposal

With the Green Energy Challenge underway, our team has been hard at work, analyzing and modelling our auditing data to design retrofits for the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC). We are all determined to achieve our overall goal of providing the CRWC with cost-effective retrofits for net zero energy consumption, while ensuring that our client understands the importance of sustainable initiatives.


Our lighting team is working on designs that improve lighting quality for occupants while reducing energy consumption. Some of their proposed ideas include replacing the current lighting fixtures with LED ones and installing light shelves to make use of natural lighting in rooms.

Building Energy Performance

This team analyzed the three main aspects of building performance: HVAC, building envelope, and occupant comfort. Using the Department of Energy modelling tools, the team simulated our client’s facility and obtained building scores in different categories, such as lighting, water heating, and HVAC, to see where they can improve to save energy. 

They are looking to replace certain components of the mechanical systems so that the buildings can be heated and cooled more efficiently. Furthermore, they assessed the building envelope using thermal imaging (some shown below) to identify areas with high thermal losses.

Finally, they interviewed building occupants and learned that the indoor air quality needs improvement, especially in the winter when residents leave windows opened up for ventilation. Several recommendations were made to address this problem, which included cleaning HVAC components to reduce air pollutants inside the building.  


Our solar team is focused on providing a photovoltaic system that will use solar energy to meet some of CRWC’s annual energy demands. They have considered client needs, innovative solar technologies, and best practices to create their designs.

For example, one of the components of their design is installing solar PV panels on the roofs of the three buildings at CRWC (one of them shown below).  

CECA blog pic 4.JPG

They used an Autodesk Revit model of CRWC to analyze which parts of the roofs get sunlight throughout the year to determine which solar panels would be useful and how much electricity each can produce. CECA blog pic 5

Using solar energy for buildings is a crucial part of making use of renewable energy sources with less harmful impacts on the environment. Now, our team is focused on doing an economic analysis of their solar designs and ensuring that it can be relied on to meet the changing energy demands of CRWC.


A significant challenge to our engineering designs is making them economically feasible. After all, if our designs that have potential to save energy cannot be realistically implemented by CRWC, then we really would not be helping anyone out with them. With this in mind, our finance team has been looking into government and non-government incentives for sustainable buildings, solar systems, and carbon pricing. These incentives would help to cover the costs of several energy retrofits.

Community Engagement

Our Community Engagement team is excited to be volunteering at CRWC’s children’s programs (including literacy and fitness). We are dedicated to teaching younger generations about the importance of sustainability through interactive activities and get them to become stewards of the environment.

Continue to follow our blogs as well as our CECA U of T Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more about our project and sustainable buildings design.

Further Readings

For those of you curious about the softwares we are using for our project or about how sustainable designs are being used in industry, check out the links below:

Autodesk Revit: https://www.autodesk.com/products/revit-family/free-trial

Department of Energy Building Energy Modelling: https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/building-energy-modeling-0

Innovative Uses of Solar Technology: https://solarpowerrocks.com/solar-trends/the-10-most-innovative-uses-for-solar-cells/

Creative solar lightinghttps://inhabitat.com/who-did-that-creates-sustainable-wood-chandeliers-with-the-help-of-solar-power/



2018 CECA Energy Audit at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

As you’ve read in our first blog, we’re excited to kickstart the 2018 Green Energy Challenge Competition! This year, we are partnering with the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC) to design a net-zero energy retrofit for their facilities.

Welcome to the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC)

CRWC is an emergency shelter that warmly welcomes about 300 refugees from around the world each year who have had to flee their war-torn countries. They work with the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship to sponsor refugees and provides initial settlement services to allow individuals and families to build their new lives in Canada.   

CRWC is driven by their mission to pursue justice, to act with compassion and integrity, and to offer hope and dignity so that the people can thrive. They are determined to continue creating an engaging community that gives each person a sense of belonging, respects cultural diversity, and celebrates people’s journeys. They partner with various organizations to improve their services to meet the evolving individual needs of different refugee populations.

For this competition, it is essential for our CECA team to connect with CRWC’s mission. Our proposal will be on different upgrades and energy saving initiatives for CRWC to achieve net-zero energy consumption. In addition, our team will volunteer in various programs CRWC runs, especially to help children with their education and health. Our work will put a significant emphasis on serving our client and having a positive impact for the public by improving the living experience of new Canadians and spreading awareness of sustainable initiatives.

Energized for the Big Day

CRWC kindly welcomed us for our energy audit, where our team inspected and analyzed the flow of energy throughout the centre’s three interconnected buildings. We split up into smaller groups and took a tour of the different parts of the buildings to gather information on lighting, solar energy, building envelope, plug loads, and HVAC systems.


Lighting: Can I get a watt watt!

The lighting team visited 20 rooms and gathered key data to be used for design. Some of the main information collected were the different lighting types, wattage, switches, mounting types, and the lighting layouts. Also, lux readings were taken using a cell phone app to determine lighting luminance at varying distances from working light sources and with just natural lighting. This indicated how intense lighting in a room was and where possible improvements could be made.  

Solar: Warming up to the idea!

One of our teammates went on top of the roof and studied the quality and types of roofing materials in use. Potential access for hoisting equipments (such as racking systems), different shadings on the roof, and using fixed versus movable solar panels were the key focus of the solar team’s observations.  


Building Energy: I’m a big fan!

Our Building Energy team observed the different types of windows and doors in each room. Using Infrared Thermometer, heat escape or leakages were identified on doors and windows to determine potential measures to incorporate into our designs to minimize this. Additionally, the model number and energy consumption of the air conditioners in each room were noted, which would help us to come up with innovative ways to cool the buildings. To gather plug loads data, the team recorded how long any devices or equipment using electricity were plugged in. Lastly, during the tour of the mechanical systems, thermal efficiency, standby losses, recovery rates, floor ventilation systems, and the functioning of the radiators were noted down.

Next Steps

After a day of hard work at the energy audit, our team organized the gathered data. Now, we have commenced our design process and are coordinating with CRWC to volunteer in their children’s programs. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and check out our upcoming blogs for our CECA journey this year!

Green Energy Challenge 2018

What is this year’s competition?

The CECA UofT Student Chapter is excited to participate in the 2018 Green Energy Challenge, which is the 10th Annual ELECTRI International/NECA Student Chapter Competition. The purpose of the competition is for students to interact with their community and NECA member companies, while learning about sustainable building design. Our team is tasked with choosing an existing facility in our neighbourhood that provides community services, and propose an energy upgrade for the building so they can achieve Net-Zero Energy (NZE) consumption.

What is Net-Zero Energy?

A NZE building is a building that generates as much or more energy as it uses and aims to minimize energy consumption. With a building that aims to be NZE, it is not completely off the grid. The building will still be connected to the electric grid as it consumes energy however it will be designed to produce its own energy through renewable energy sources (eg. solar energy). This leads to a net-zero energy consumption. Its connection to the grid also allows the use of traditional energy sources such as gas and electricity since they are resilient in the event that renewable resources fail to provide enough power. However, if the amount of renewable energy exceeds the amount of energy required by the building, this extra energy can be fed back to the utility grid.

To achieve NZE, the concept can be implemented during the design phase of a building to utilize all the features that can prevent energy consumption and produce renewable energy. However, NZE can also be achieved after a building is built. This is very important, since many old buildings are energy intensive but are not ready to be replaced entirely. Retrofitting a building to achieve NZE is a long process that may take multiple years and has to be maintained throughout the lifetime of the building. It is important for a building trying to accomplish NZE to set frequent goals related to reducing energy consumption. We have two tasks to in order to help our client become NZE. First, we will design improvements to decrease energy consumption in the building, from efficient lighting and appliances to better insulation that reduces heating demand in the winter. Second, we will design a solar energy system that will generate enough energy to offset the consumption by the building through the year.s

Why is Net-Zero Energy important?

A NZE building reduces greenhouse gases by using the energy it produces from renewable energy sources, so there is no need for the use of fossil fuels. The property value of a building increases if it is seen to have NZE consumption because it saves money over its entire life cycle in energy and maintenance costs. The concept of NZE has become popular and it is moving much of the building sector industry forward.

Further Readings:

To follow us on our journey, check out our social media pages:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cecauoft/

Instagram: @cecauoft


Energy Audit 2017: Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre!

We, at CECA UofT Chapter, have been making some strides with this year’s Green Energy Challenge Competition 2017 so we wanted to update you. This year, we have chosen to work with the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre (WNC) and they graciously hosted our team to collect data on their site for the energy audit.

What’s an “Energy Audit”?

An Energy Audit is an important information tool to understand how energy is being used to operate a building. For the purposes of our audit this year, we took a tour of the WNC building and and gathered data on energy use due to: lighting (luminescence measure), plug loads (use of electrical appliances), and HVAC systems (heating and cooling systems). Other observations included looking at building envelopes and checking for places in need of improvements/retrofits within existing building structure (eg adding solar panels or natural lighting).

Scroll below for some pictures of our shenanigans as we took a tour of WNC for the energy audit last week!


First off, the team met some representatives at WNC who gave us a general tour of the centre. We got to check out various rooms hosting workshops for community members, the gym and the roof!


After the tour, the team divided into groups to get information on lighting and the mechanical system (HVAC).


Several key measures were taken into consideration for lighting. This included noting the type of lights, measuring distances from lighting system relative to the room and also checking the luminescence quality with lights on and off using a smartphone app. In addition, the lighting team observed plug loads by considering different electronic devices that were being used in rooms.



The solar/HVAC team got access to the building’s mechanical room to understand and gather information on the types of air conditioners and boilers being used to provide heating and cooling. Moreover, a big part of the challenge is considering solar and other renewable sources! For this reason, the roof was also visited to assess if panels could be an option for WNC.


As you can make out, the team did a lot of work by recording and taking meticulous measurements for the audit. However, we also had some fun!


Pictured is one of our members geared with: an infrared thermometer, an infrared camera and an ONSET temperature/RH data logger. It’s great at sensing and logging data on heat but also great for selfies!

That is the end of our audit update! Be sure to follow this blog for more updates on how the data collected is going to be used to suggest recommendations for WNC as we progress with “Green Energy Challenge 2017”.




2016 Green Energy Challenge – Boston

In the 2016 summer the UofT CECA Student Chapter had received news that they were one of the finalist teams for the 2016 Green Energy Challenge (GEC) presented by Electri International. Only being in the competition for two years the team was very excited to compete at the finals level of the GEC as well as get the opportunity to interact with industry professionals at the NECA convention.

The 2016 GEC challenge focused on an energy retrofit (focusing on lighting systems and renewable energy) for a local school facility. The UofT CECA chapter paired with University of Toronto Schools for their project. After several site visits, energy and lighting takeoffs, feasibility analysis, and Revit modelling – the team put together a retrofit solution that would reduce the building’s lighting loads by 60% with a payback period of only 5.3 years.

The 2016 NECA convention was held in Boston, MA on October 7th – 10th. Six of the team members were selected to attend the conference and present the UofT team’s proposal for the GEC. The team had a fantastic time in Boston and secured third place in the competition.

The team looks forward to next year’s competition and is aiming to take first place!

Interview with CECA Executive

Recently, one of our outreach team members for the 2016 Green Energy Challenge, Nataliya Pekar, conducted an interview with one of our current CECA executives, co-founder, former Projects Manager and current Communications Coordinator, Matheos Tsiaras, about the chapter and what it is up to these days.

The interview was published in a full page spread in The Cannon (www.cannon.skule.ca), UofT Engineering’s Student Newspaper, and can be read in full below!


Nataliya: First thing’s first – what is CECA and what does the U of T Student Chapter aim to accomplish?

Matheos: Primarily, The Canadian Electrical Contractors Association brings together electrical contractors across the country to share experience and advice. Our chapter is an extension of this initiative to the student community, and we’re the first in Canada! Our goal is to engage students to learn about electrical contracting from firsthand experience, and to bridge the gap between contracting and engineering both within Canada, and between Canada and the United States (our chapter is also affiliated as the 30th chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, the American equivalent of CECA).

We also host networking and social events, connect students with scholarship and job opportunities, and compete in international design competitions such as the Electri International Green Energy Challenge and most recently the Student Passport Initiative.

Nataliya: More specifically, what have you done so far?

Matheos: The majority of our success has been spreading awareness and increasing excitement around electrical contracting within the engineering community at U of T. With the incredible support of our industry contact with CECA, Tom Vivian, our faculty advisor, Brenda McCabe, and everyone else who has helped along the way, the successful launch of the chapter in May 2014 and a great first year is a huge success on its own.

More specifically, the chapter competed in the 2015 Green Energy Challenge and scored fourth place for their lighting and back-up power retrofit proposal for Good Sheppard Ministries – a shelter in downtown Toronto. Additionally, the chapter placed second in the poster competition for the 2015 challenge. This year, with the help of CECA and several local contractors, our proposal is actually being realized at Good Sheppard, which we are really excited about.

In late fall of 2015 the U of T CECA Student chapter was approached by the Penn State University NECA to join them to construct a solar powered water pumping station for a community of 600 in Roatan, Honduras. This is part of the Student Passport Competition which Penn State won with their proposal last year. Two members of our chapter, Mackenzie de Carle and Dmitri Naoumov, were in Honduras during the week of March 7 to build the station. We hope to join this competition again next year.

Nataliya: Tell me more about the specifics of these competitions.

Matheos: The majority of the work is for the Green Energy Challenge. Typically the project consists of conducting an energy audit of a site and then proposing a renewable energy implementation and a lighting retrofit. We plan a new electrical system, figure out the construction scheduling, and work with local contractors to do a cost estimate. Then we put together a short pre-proposal and then a final proposal submission in April. A winner is picked from a selection of finalists at the annual NECA Convention, last year it was in San Francisco and a bunch of us from the chapter actually attended for the 2015 poster competition!

For the Student Passport Initiative, the idea is similar. Teams who wish to participate submit a short proposal detailing a renewable energy solution that they would like to implement in a developing country or rural community of their choice. The most exciting part is that the winning proposal receives funding to allow the students to go and implement their design.

Nataliya: You went to San Francisco? How was that?

Matheos: It was great! We were able to gain from watching presentations from the finalist teams, and it was here that we won second place for our poster for the 2015 Green Energy Challenge. Aside from this, there were several keynote presentations, including one from Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy, and countless networking and social events for students and industry professionals to attend. Attending the convention was a fantastic way for us to get immersed in the electrical contracting world, to meet fellow student chapters and share experiences, and to network with industry professionals. And of course, there was ample free time to explore the beautiful city of San Francisco and all that it has to offer. The team thoroughly looks forward to attending the 2016 NECA Convention in Boston.

Nataliya: Can you expand on participating in the Passport Competition and your trip?

Matheos: Participating in the Student Passport Competition was an incredible experience. Not only was it a great way to get introduced to the competition and how it all works, but Mackenzie de Carle and Dmitri Naoumov, the students who went on the trip, will both say that being able to actually travel to Honduras and help build the solar powered water pumping station and see first-hand the positive impact it will have on the community was a feeling that is tough to put into words. We would like to thank Penn State for allowing us to piggyback on their proposal this year, and we hope to submit our own proposal next year.

Nataliya: What are you currently working on?

Matheos: The 2016 Green Energy Challenge is currently in full swing, and the team is hard at work on it. The competition this year centres on an energy audit, lighting retrofit, and solar PV array installation at a local school, and we are working with University of Toronto Schools (UTS), a high school near campus, for this competition. The team is holding a site visit on March 21 to collect data about the existing conditions of the school, and the final proposal is due on April 4. As well, the team is working on its outreach strategy for the competition, which will likely include an event hosted by the team either at the school itself or on university grounds to spread sustainable energy awareness.

Nataliya: Where are you hoping to expand?

Matheos: As early as next year, we hope to submit our own proposal for the Student Passport Initiative. Into the future, we hope to be a part of the initiative that leads to the creation of more CECA chapters across Canadian universities.

Overall, we want to spread awareness and education and are always looking to collaborate with others clubs at U of T.

Nataliya: So, what can students do if they join your club? What kind of expertise is required?

Matheos: All students are welcome to join the CECA chapter, being an engineering student is not required whatsoever. We hope students are not turned away by feeling their expertise does not match with the work that we do, we welcome everybody as anyone can meaningfully contribute.

We are proud to say participating is a great learning experience for everyone involved. There is something for everyone who is interested in green energy and sustainable design.

Nataliya How can students get involved and where can they get more information?

Matheos: Students can send us an email at ceca.uoft@gmail.com if they are interested in anything that the chapter is doing. We can also be found at a booth at both the Frosh Week Clubs Fair and the U of T Sustainability Conference Tradeshow, which occur annually.

Students can also check out our blog at www.cecauoft.wordpress.com. And soon we will have www.cecauoft.skule.ca up and running! This blog is being regularly updated as part of the outreach strategy during the Green Energy Challenge, and summarizes all activities surrounding the chapter.

Nataliya: Thank you! Good luck in the Green Energy Challenge!

Matheos: Thanks!