The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has released a new report which makes recommendations for retrofitting large buildings as a means to achieving significant reductions in GHG emissions by 2030. The Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada report builds on a 2016 document by CaGBC, Building Solutions to Climate Change: How Green Buildings Can Help Meet Canada’s 2030 Emissions Targets .
The Roadmap report begins with analysis of the carbon reduction potential of large buildings in Canada, based on the factors of size, age, energy source, regional electrical grid, and building type. The analysis was conducted by Montreal consultancy WSP. Some conclusions may seem obvious – for example, despite its relatively clean energy grid, Ontario contributes the greatest emissions from buildings because of the concentration of large buildings and the reliance on natural gas for heating and hot water. The level of detail of the analysis, however, reveals more surprising observations , for example: “In all provinces, the “other” asset class category represents the largest opportunity for carbon emissions reductions. This asset class includes warehouses, entertainment venues, leisure and recreation buildings, shopping centres, and colleges and universities.”
CaGBC’s Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada presents its recommendations for action, clustered in 4 categories, ( in order of their magnitude of impact):
- Recommission buildings that have yet to achieve high performance status by optimizing existing building systems for improved control and operational performance;
- Undertake deep retrofits in buildings to high-performance standards such as LEED, focusing on energy reduction and ensuring that key building systems such as lighting, HVAC and envelopes are upgraded. Most impact will come from deep retrofits in buildings over 35 years old, and in buildings using electric resistance heating systems in regions with carbon-intensive electricity grids (Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Retail buildings are highlighted as an important sector .
- Switch to low carbon fuel sources in 20% of buildings over 35 years old in all regions; and
- Incorporate solar or other on-site renewable energy systems. The report states that this action would bring the highest carbon emissions reductions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It would also be most impactful for buildings with large roof-to–floor space ratios, such as retail, education and institutional buildings.
The Roadmap report concludes with public policy recommendations for the building sector, including: Canada’s future retrofit code should include a GHG metric along with energy thresholds; each province should develop its own unique roadmap for retrofits, to target areas where investments can yield the highest economic and environmental benefits; and the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund and future public funding programs should make use of a “roadmap” model. The federal government is expected to announce policy measures this Fall – see “Federal Government eyes energy retrofits in buildings” in the Globe and Mail. For an excellent summary of the Roadmap report, see “Deep retrofits, ‘recommissioning’ could meet climate targets on their own” (Sept. 22) from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) .
In related news, on September 14, New York Mayor De Blasio proposed what he characterized as a pioneering plan to force landlords to retrofit older, larger commercial and institutional buildings in NYC. “De Blasio Vows to Cut Emissions in New York’s Larger Buildings” in the New York Times (Sept. 14) states that the proposals are only sketched out and are just beginning to search for political allies. An article in Inside Climate News summarizes the issue of energy efficiency building codes in the U.S., and briefly describes initiatives in the cities of New York, Seattle, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.