Case Study: Canada-Leading Geo-Exchange Retrofit

This article is part of a series of selected ESG case studies submitted by participants in the 2017 GRESB Real Estate Assessment.

CF is proud of our leadership and innovation in implementing Canada’s first geo-exchange retrofit of an occupied, mixed-use high-rise complex in a downtown city core!

Purpose of the project

CF is proud to have installed Canada’s first geo-exchange retrofit of an occupied, mixed-use high-rise complex in a downtown core. The project took place at 777 Dunsmuir in Vancouver, which includes a 19-storey office tower. The geo-exchange system was put in place to harvest the building’s rejected heat and store it underground until needed. This solution reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional heating and cooling while saving energy costs for the organization. CF is particularly proud because the retrofit was conducted in a fully occupied building, in a dense urban core, with minimal disruption to building occupants.


Cadillac Fairview partnered with Fenix Energy, a company that provides integrated renewable energy solutions to the built environment, to develop the geo-exchange system. Geo-exchange is a process involving the use of the earth to store heat, which would be normally vented from the building. In other words, the building’s stored heat is stored underground until needed. This reduces energy costs and emissions associated with traditional heating and cooling. Prior to announcing this project, geo-exchange systems had primarily been installed in new building construction or properties where there is land readily available, adjacent to the building. Never before had this been attempted on an already occupied property in Canada, consequently, a new engineering solution was required. This included the installation of vertical underground piping, as opposed to horizontal and new drilling systems to enable boring in confined spaces such as parkades, with lower headroom. These innovations resulted in minimum disruption of the surrounding area, allowing the building to remain open during the retrofitting.


In 2014, the system was successfully commissioned at 777 Dusmuir. Geo-exchange has traditionally been applied to pre/new construction projects. This project was unique and particularly groundbreaking because 777 Dunsmuir is a fully occupied building constructed in 1990. The team used innovative technology to drill 30 boreholes 400 feet deep into the earth, below the existing building structure.


The geo-exchange retrofitting of this property was a success – not only did this project align with Cadillac Fairview’s sustainability objectives, it also provided an alternative energy source to the building and the retail component of the complex, while creating substantial financial savings. The success of this project established the viability of engineering technology to tackle larger existing building geo-exchange retrofits, further reducing emissions and reducing energy costs. The retrofit was expected to reduce carbon emissions from heating energy by 85%, the equivalent of taking 190 cars off the road.

Magnitude of benefits

80-90% Savings


To find more information on this case study, visit the 2014 CF Corporate Responsibility Report. Additional information can also be found here.
This case study was submitted by Swire Properties.

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