Applications  for the Deep Retrofit Challenge are now open. The Deep Retrofit Challenge is a competition-style program funded by the Government of Canada, which will support deep retrofit projects that significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in approximately 10 to 16 buildings in Toronto.

Participating buildings will receive a grant equal to 25 per cent of their total project costs up to a maximum of up to $500,000 (depending on gross floor area and building performance) to offset the incremental design and construction costs required to achieve maximum emissions reductions. The selected projects will serve to demonstrate the deep retrofits needed to move buildings towards net zero emissions, with the goal of accelerating market adoption. Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto today, generated primarily by the burning of fossil fuels for heating and hot water.

The city is committed to ensuring that the application process is fair and transparent. All questions submitted about the Challenge and the responses provided will be available via a Questions and Answers document. All meetings will be hosted by the city via webinars that will be promoted via this web page and email to past webinar registrants, partners, and other city channels. City staff cannot meet privately with parties interested in participating in the Challenge before application approval.

To be considered for the Challenge, buildings must be located within Toronto and be an Ontario Building Code Part 3 building (i.e. greater than 600m2 or greater than three storeys). The following building types are eligible to participate:

  • Multi-unit residential buildings (including condominiums, apartments, etc.)
  • Commercial office buildings.
  • Mixed-use buildings (residential and commercial, including residential over commercial).
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The Challenge will serve as a catalyst to accelerate deep energy retrofits in support of the City’s Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy, which, together with the City’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy, aims to reduce emissions from buildings and all other sectors in Toronto to net zero by 2040.

What is a deep retrofit?

A deep retrofit is an extensive, holistic overhaul of a building’s systems, utilizing best practices with the goal of significantly reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. A deep retrofit is either a step or a leap towards net zero emissions. To achieve the City’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions climate target almost all buildings in Toronto will be required to undergo deep energy retrofits.

A deep retrofit can deliver significant savings on energy costs as building energy usage is reduced by 50 per cent or more. Core components of a deep retrofit typically include:

  • improvements to the building envelope
  • fuel switching away from fossil fuel natural gas heating systems to electric heat pumps
  • modification of other parts of the HVAC system, building operations, renewable energy, and more

For example, the holistic upgrade of building systems could include air sealing and extra insulation, high-performance triple pane windows, electric heat pumps (ground or air source) for space and water heating, energy recovery (ventilation, drain, or equipment), renewable electricity generation, electric vehicle chargers, building controls and more.

The energy reduction from switching building heating systems away from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps alone is enormous; as air-source heat pumps are typically at least three times more efficient than the most efficient gas-fired heating systems. Ontario’s electricity system is relatively low-emissions, meaning any fuel conversion from fossil fuels to electricity will result in large emissions reductions.

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To achieve the City’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions climate target almost all buildings, old and new, will need to switch away from fossil fuels to clean electricity. Most buildings will need envelope upgrades, although some of the newest, highest-performance buildings may already have high-performance envelopes and will only require fuel switching (buildings that only plan to undertake a single retrofit measure are not the target of the Deep Retrofit Challenge).

Do you have other questions? Please submit your question about the Challenge to using your business email account.

The deadline is October 31, 2022.

Featured image credit: Mwangi Gatheka / Unsplash.


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