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Toronto’s skyline.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

As the skyline of Toronto's financial core stretches skyward, those who build, occupy and develop that vista are making significant cuts to their collective energy use.

Race to Reduce, an energy reduction challenge conducted by the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, announced Thursday that it is just 1 per cent away from its goal of reducing energy use by 10 per cent by the end of 2014. The effort represents more than 175 buildings and 67 million square feet, or about 32 per cent of Toronto's office space.

"Reaching a 9-per-cent reduction in just two short years has highlighted what landlords and tenants can achieve when they focus together on reducing energy, costs and carbon emissions," said Roger Johnson, senior vice-president for enterprise real estate at Toronto-Dominion Bank and co-chair of CivicAction's Commercial Building Energy Leadership Council. "It also demonstrates the ample opportunities for Race to Reduce participants and non-participants alike to achieve much greater energy savings."

Given the plethora of new, environmentally friendly office buildings across the city, and particularly south of Union Station, the opportunity to reduce energy consumption has never been greater. But given the increasingly volatile state of the economy, can this sort of continued effort be maintained?

"In the past, the case for sustainability wasn't well developed or articulated, so people tended to think it was more of a benevolent activity than one that actually made dollars or sense," said Brad Henderson, regional senior managing director at CBRE Ltd. and fellow co-chair.

"People recognize that there's a good financial return on investment. So to say that when times turn down, people will stop investing in things that have a good financial return, it's actually the opposite – they'll look for those things as good cost savings."

Mr. Henderson believes the best is yet to come, with significant savings on offer for those taking part. "Beyond the numbers, the greater achievement will be ensuring the continued market transformation of the Toronto region's commercial office sector," he said.

The potential is immense, he says, as cutting energy consumption by at least 10 per cent across the region's 1,750 buildings would mean saving almost 545,000,000 ekWh (equivalent kilowatt hours), similar to the annual carbon emissions from more than 14,000 cars.

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