Why do energy retrofits matter and what are Canadian cities doing to advance them?
The City of Vancouver has a target to reduce 50% of GHG emissions from existing buildings by 2030 and 100% by 2050. This goal is in line with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) findings to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Zero-emission building policies are required to achieve this goal.
To get their own house in order, the City of Vancouver is advancing net-zero retrofits within their own facilities. Firehall 17 will be the second-largest training fire hall for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and one of the first fire halls in Canada to earn the Zero Carbon Building Standard.
The City is also working with developers, home builders and residents to reduce emissions by constructing better buildings via improved building envelopes, switching to renewable energy and using heat pumps. They have developed an incentive program for new construction that enables an increase in the floor area by 12% for a single-family home or by 15% for a duplex for the buildings that are constructed to net zero-emission or Passive House standards. Based on the experiences in the new build sector, the City is also exploring the value of this incentive to advance net-zero emission retrofits.
The City is also exploring the use of retrofit codes that require any renovations on existing buildings exceeding $25,000 to undertake an energy assessment, upgrade attic insulation and improve airtightness. Incentives are available from the City and BC Hydro to replace gas and oil heating systems with a cold-weather heat pump.
Training programs in the construction industry are needed to meet the complex and growing retrofit demands and the City and its partners are working towards increasing energy and emissions building science within the construction trades.
While increasing the construction of zero-emission new buildings is extremely important, only about 3% of building stock is added on an annual basis. Existing buildings contribute about 59% of total emissions, with over 90% of the building emissions coming from natural gas use. Therefore, we must address GHG emissions from existing buildings. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, about 4-5 million buildings in North America will need to be retrofitted every year for 10 years to meet the IPCC science-based targets. Some of the benefits of building retrofits include reduced vulnerability to energy and carbon price increases over time, improved indoor and outdoor air quality, job creation and local economic development.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadian buildings will need to be retrofit. These include tens of thousands of government buildings and thousands of affordable & social housing buildings. Supporting the implementation of municipal retrofit programs and policies is a top priority for Clean Air Partnership. Check out our Green Standards Toolkit and Building Retrofit Toolkit for more information on actions occurring within Canadian municipalities.
To learn more about the policy changes supporting retrofits in the City of Vancouver, check out this webinar.