For Canada to achieve its 2030 and 2050 climate targets, building owners and operators will need to upgrade, retrofit, and ultimately decarbonize hundreds of millions of square metres of space.

A new report from the Canada Green Buildings Council (CaGBC) provides a window into the cost of deep carbon retrofits, the energy and carbon savings they will achieve, and details how building owners and operators can maximize the cost efficiency of their retrofits.

Decarbonizing Canada’s Large Buildings: A Pathway Forward will help equip Canadian building owners and policy-makers with the information needed to accelerate deep carbon retrofits. It is estimated that retrofits of large buildings can reduce building-sector emissions by up to 21.2 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030. Although the potential and importance of deep carbon retrofits are generally known, implementation at the building level has not been clear.

“For Canada to achieve its climate targets, it will be critical for owners and operators to decarbonize hundreds of millions of square meters of buildings leading up to 2030 and 2050,” said Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of the CaGBC. “Decarbonizing Canada’s Large Buildings provides building owners with a roadmap to upgrade equipment, improve management practices, undertake deep retrofits, and use clean renewable energy to get to low carbon performance. We’ve shown decarbonization is possible, and how government support can improve the business case to enable retrofit at scale. Now we must get it done.”

Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of CaGBC.

The study breaks down Canada’s large buildings into 50 different archetypes, and sets baselines and business-as-usual upgrades — that is, routine improvements to building systems. The report then identifies what retrofits are needed for the archetypes to achieve net-zero and their performance outcomes and provides a financial analysis of the retrofit measures.

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The report provides the following recommendations for policymakers:

  1. Continue to align retrofit cost savings and deep carbon reductions through planned carbon pricing increases and/or other means.
  2. Support and establish innovative retrofit loan programs, such as property-assessed clean energy (PACE) and on-bill financing (OBF),7 and develop credit enhancements, such as loan-loss reserves, loan guarantees, and interest buy-downs.8
  3. Expand incentives, rebates, and supportive programs for deep carbon retrofits.
  4. Develop and enforce mandatory performance standards for existing buildings.
  5. Develop and enact mandatory energy performance benchmarking and disclosure programs.
  6. Ramp up education, low-carbon skills training, and industry capacity.
  7. Accelerate the shift in focus of building performance policy from energy reductions to carbon reductions.

The report summary is available at cagbc.org/decarbonize.

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