Buildings account for almost 70 per cent of New York City’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Advancing energy efficiency retrofits within our existing building stock is critical to reducing the GHGs and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
In addition to GHG reductions, energy efficiency retrofits offer many other benefits such as increased occupant comfort and improved indoor air quality (a concern that has increased during the COVID pandemic), and local economic development. New York City is using energy retrofit codes and energy building labelling to achieve these goals and advance the implementation of New York’s Green New Deal action plan.
While retrofits have a lot of advantages, advancing a retrofit code can be a significant challenge for municipalities and alignment across municipal, provincial and federal governments is critical as each plays a role in ensuring authorities, engaging stakeholders, and sharing leading practices and implementation lessons learned. Under New York’s new code, builders will have to improve the building thermal envelope to limit heat loss; better seal the envelope to control air leakage; and insulate balconies and parapets. Buildings will also have to meet tougher energy efficiency requirements for heating and cooling systems and lighting control. These codes play a critical role in advancing the retrofit market.
One of the challenges of retrofitting existing buildings is the disruption it creates for residents. This disruption can often result in the relocation of occupants which increases the costs of the retrofit. Therefore, strategies to reduce occupant disruption are an important consideration for retrofit projects. New York City is addressing this issue by cladding the exterior of buildings and fuel switching from natural gas to geothermal; two key strategies to reduce occupant disruption. A remarkable example of compensating occupant disruption is retrofitting the 9 building Casa Pasiva, where occupants are provided with in-unit temperature controls and sub-metering to enable them to better understand their energy usage.
New York’s use of policies and codes will likely need to be implemented in Canadian jurisdictions to enable us to build the retrofit market and achieve the myriad co-benefits resulting from building retrofits. While amazing retrofit projects have been advanced in Canada, to scale up the market, retrofit codes and energy labelling will need to be advanced in Canadian communities. The federal government has committed to developing a model retrofit code, but that code will need to be adopted at the provincial level and implemented at the municipal level. Hence the need for alignment across all levels of government! So, while getting retrofit programs into the market is a critical first step, there is likely to be the need for retrofit codes and building energy labelling to truly build the market and secure all the efficiency opportunities and co-benefits of retrofit projects.
For more information on New York City’s retrofit efforts visit the Clean Air Council webinar recording and stay tuned for our upcoming blog on how the City of Vancouver is putting these policies into action.