Canadian report recommends nationwide retrofit strategy to cut emissions from large buildings

Sept. 21, 2017
Canadian report recommends nationwide retrofit strategy to cut emissions from large buildings

A new report by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) delivers a detailed roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings like office towers, recreation centers, hospitals, arenas and schools across the country. CaGBC's A Roadmap for Retrofits in Canadademonstrates the critical role existing buildings play in realizing Canada's low carbon future, according to a release. 

The report provides recommendations to retrofit large buildings that will contribute to achieving a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 30 percent (or 12.5 million tons) by 2030, with the potential to reach 51 percent or 21.2 million tons. 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, the 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 recommissioning, deep retrofits, renewable energy and fuel switching actions.

Among its key findings, the roadmap concludes that:
    •    The report finds achieving a 30 percent (and potentially 51 percent) 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 square feet) and deep retrofits for older buildings (older than 35 years old) 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 percent of the reduction activity needed.
    •    In provinces with carbon intense electricity grids, specifically Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 30 percent 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 percent 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, including a GHG metric in Canada's future retrofit building code; developing regional retrofit roadmaps; prioritizing 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.


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