Retrofitting Canada – Could it work?

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Every Canadian stands to benefit from recommendations which could reduce 21 million tonnes of carbon by 2030, help the government achieve its climate change goals, and grow the economy

OTTAWA and VANCOUVER, Sept. 20, 2017 /CNW/ – A new report released today by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) delivers a detailed roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings like office towers, recreation centres, hospitals, arenas and schools across the country.

CaGBC’s A Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada demonstrates the critical role that existing buildings play in realizing Canada’s low carbon future. The report provides recommendations to retrofit large buildings that will contribute to achieving a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 30 per cent (or 12.5 million tonnes1) by 2030, with the potential to reach 51 per cent or 21.2 million tonnes. The Roadmap provides government and industry with a targeted plan to yield the greatest carbon savings from buildings and grow Canada’s clean economy.

Developed by WSP for CaGBC, this report advances recommendations made in CaGBC’s 2016 Building Solutions to Climate Change research by analyzing how the type, size and age of large buildings, along with energy sources and the carbon intensity of regional electrical grids in Canada, can affect energy efficiency and carbon emissions.

The report identifies the buildings with the largest carbon reduction potential and recommends provincially-specific retrofit pathways that include a combination of recommissioningi, deep retrofitsii, renewable energyiii, and fuel switching actionsiv.

Among its key findings, the Roadmap concludes that:

  • The report finds achieving a 30 per cent (and potentially 51 per cent) building emissions reduction by 2030 is achievable by focusing on a targeted number of buildings that have the greatest potential to reduce carbon.
  • Buildings including office buildings, shopping malls, universities, and arenas constructed between 1960 and 1979 across all provinces represent the age class with the largest opportunity for total carbon emissions reductions.
  • Alberta and Ontario currently emit the most carbon and therefore have the greatest potential for reducing emissions. This is due to the carbon intensity of Alberta’s electricity grid and the number of large buildings in Ontario.
  • All provinces will need to prioritize recommissioning for large buildings (between 25,000 and 200,000 sq.ft) and deep retrofits for older buildings (over 35 years old) in order to meet the target. These two actions will reduce emissions by a collective total of 4.1 MT CO2e, providing 62 per cent of the reduction activity needed.
  • Fuel switching must be completed in 20 per cent of buildings over 35 years old across Canada. Currently, fuel switching is particularly attractive in provinces with clean electricity grids such as British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. In these regions, significant effort should be put into increasing the adoption of highly efficient heat pump technology. This will reduce emissions by 1.6 MT CO2e, or 25 per cent of the reduction activity needed.
  • In provinces with carbon intense electricity grids, specifically Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 30 per cent of buildings will need to use renewable energy in order to meet the target. This will reduce emissions by 0.9 MT CO2e, representing 13 per cent of the reduction activity needed.

“This report makes it very clear that targeted strategic investments in existing buildings represent a massive opportunity for significant carbon reductions across the country,” says Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of CaGBC.

“We are showing how each region can contribute to meeting Canada’s climate change goals through a targeted approach to building retrofit and clean energy. Governments at all levels are encouraged to develop progressive policies and programs to guide investment and support for establishing a robust retrofit economy in Canada.”

The report provides the following policy recommendations for the Federal Government:  include a GHG metric in Canada’s future retrofit building code; develop regional retrofit roadmaps; prioritize investments in scalable retrofit projects; and supporting mandatory energy benchmarking.

A Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada will be followed by a third CaGBC report, to be published in Spring 2018, which will provide policy options that would overcome barriers that hinder the implementation of retrofit projects and identify the financing mechanisms necessary to stimulate the retrofit economy. For information about CaGBC’s advocacy efforts and associated market research, visit www.cagbc.org/advocacy.

This report was made possible through the support of the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia.

About CaGBC
The CaGBC (www.cagbc.org) is the leading national organization dedicated to advancing green building and sustainable community development practices. The CaGBC reduces environmental impacts from the built environment through project certification, advocacy and research, and has helped meet the demand for skilled workers by providing green building education to over 30,000 professionals across the country since 2002. CaGBC is the license holder of the LEED® green building rating system in Canada and developed the country’s first Zero Carbon Building Standard this year, supports the WELL™ Building Standard and GRESB in Canada, and oversees the Canada Coalition for Green Schools.

About WSP
As a leading engineering professional services consulting firm, we are a network of technical experts and strategic advisors that includes engineers, technicians, scientists, planners, surveyors, environmental specialists, and other design, program and construction management professionals. We are problem-solvers who evolve, improve, modernize and excel, constantly working toward shaping the communities of tomorrow and helping societies thrive sustainably.

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1 Net emissions reductions in 2030 are influenced by changes in population and the carbon intensity of the electrical grids (5.6 million tonne reduction) as well as the proposed CaGBC emissions reduction activities (6.6 million tonnes).

i Recommissioning: optimizing the performance and operation of an existing building’s system. Following investigation, the measures implemented can include equipment maintenance, adjustments to controls, and minor equipment retrofits. This includes things like upgrading lighting, improving indoor air quality and replacing boilers.

ii Deep retrofits: involves major system and equipment replacement or upgrade. Typically pursued during building renewal events such as envelope and major equipment replacement, new ownership or occupancy, and green building certification. It can include HVAC changes, window replacement, and other envelope and system upgrades.

iii Renewable energy: while many forms of on-site renewable energy exist, including solar thermal, biomass, wind and micro-hydro, solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation is most commonly used in existing buildings.

iv Fuel switching actions: switching natural gas and other carbon-intensive heating furnaces, boilers and distributed equipment to low carbon sources like high-efficiency electricity-based systems such as heat pumps.

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