Area II: Enhancing Building Performance in Community Housing

What approaches to the renewal, design and operation of community housing will address environmental and tenant needs?

  1. Our Objectives
  2. Our Team
  3. Community Partners
  4. Publications

Building construction and operations account for 17% of total GHG emissions in Canada. Inefficient energy and heating systems contribute significantly to emissions, especially in older buildings, which describes most community housing in Canada.

Temperature regulation is often difficult in community housing due to poor ventilation and insulation, driving up operating costs. A focus on energy efficiency is needed to lower operating costs, protect resident wellbeing, and increase climate resilience.

Our Objectives

1. To inform investment and program decisions through improved and expanded data on the performance of community housing buildings
2. To develop holistic approaches for assessing the costs and benefits of adopting sustainable technologies and designs in community housing
3. To identify if and how concerns for environmental performance are linked to other building issues in community housing (e.g. unit size, accessibility and common space)
4. To assess partnerships and strategies that support sustainability and resilience in community housing through innovative approaches to repair, renewal, design and construction.

Our Team

Runa Das | Area Lead | Royal Roads University

An interdisciplinary sustainability scholar, Dr Das’ work centres on energy use, energy justice and environmental behaviour. Her work is motivated by real world issues such as climate change and sustainability. In particular, her interdisciplinary research explores the assessment and practice of environmental and social sustainability with a specific focus on energy-related issues.

Marianne Touchie
Co-Investigator | University of Toronto

Dr Touchie’s research focuses on improving the energy performance and indoor environmental quality of existing buildings to make them more comfortable, healthy and sustainable through comprehensive retrofits. 

Russell Richman
Co-Investigator | Ryerson University

Dr. Richman is a civil engineer and building scientist with a private consulting practice. His building science research focuses on improving energy efficiency.

Shabnam Edalatnia, Master’s Student | Royal Roads University

My research focuses on energy retrofit strategies in existing community housing in British Columbia. Through this research, I am using a combination of desktop research approaches, quantitative methods, and case studies to benchmark multi-residential community housing buildings and assess their energy performance to identify which buildings account for the highest percentage of energy use and emissions. Further, different retrofit packages in order to improve these buildings’ energy performance will be developed, and to determine which retrofit measures are the best fitting, environmental and financial indicators, such as payback period, net present value (NPV), energy conservation, and GHG reduction will be calculated. It is noteworthy that all required data to conduct this research, including monthly utility data, energy audit reports, and buildings’ characteristics information, are provided by BC Housing and CoolAid Society.

My background includes a Master of Science in Geology and Earth Science, which I completed in 2013 in Iran. This degree provided me with extensive knowledge of environmental and energy-related issues. Following this, I worked for eight years in the petroleum industry exploring the environmental and social impacts of unsustainable energy sector practices. This experience furthered my interest in environmental and social sustainability. After my work experience, I decided to pursue energy and sustainability research in Canada at Royal Roads University. Currently, I am working on my thesis under Dr Das’s supervision

Jofri Issac, Master’s Student | Royal Roads University

My research interest lies in understanding the climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies at the community level, by applying a systems thinking and participatory approach. At present, I am working on a Food systems and Climate-Biodiversity-Health (CBH) nexus project at the University of Fraser Valley. Previously, I was associated with the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), India, to study the impact of climate change on rural livelihoods in India. During this period, I worked in the remote regions of India, helping communities establish social entrepreneurship through community engagement and capacity building.

Robbi Humble
Master’s Student | Royal Roads University (Regina/Treaty 4)

Supported by the Community Housing Canada research partnership, Robbi’s MA research explores how community housing stakeholders are shaping future housing and energy pathways through their decisions about the community housing building stock.

Robbi is a Master of Arts candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at Royal Roads University. Based in Regina, SK (Treaty 4 territory), Robbi’s research interests focus on the socio-cultural processes needed for equitable sustainability transitions. Robbi’s professional and academic background includes sustainable community development, systems change, and community and stakeholder engagement.

Community Partners


Quantifying the prevalence of energy poverty across Canada: Estimating domestic energy burden using an expenditures approach.
Runa Das, Julia Martiskainen, Grace Li

Enhancing building performance in community housing: Year one research journey (Year-End Report. No.4). Community Housing Canada.
Robbi Humble and Runa Das
Area of Inquiry II presents an overview of Year 1 of their research programme.

Presentation: Identifying sustainability synergies in current Canadian community housing literature
June 3, 2021 – Runa Das, Esther de Vos, Robbi Humble, Russell Richman, and Marianne Touchie
Presentation at the Canadian Sociological Association Conference at Congress 2021, University of Alberta, AB. Session: Sustainable Housing: Social and Environmental Synergies and Conflicts.

Reframing stakeholder decision-making using a relational, systems approach to advance wellbeing and building performance in community housing
June 3, 2021 – Robbi Humble. Presentation at the Canadian Sociological Association Conference at Congress 2021, University of Alberta, AB. Session Sustainable Housing: Social and Environmental Synergies and Conflicts.