In Canada, buildings account for approximately 13% of the country’s emissions and therefore play a critical role in realizing Canada’s low carbon future. Even with new developments ramping up, existing buildings will account for roughly two-thirds of the building stock in 2030 and roughly half by 2050. To achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 (relative to 2007 levels), most buildings will need to be “fuel-switched”. In other words, buildings will need to be electrified or connected to a renewable district energy system or undergo a retrofit to become energy efficient if fuel switching is not possible or feasible.
Retrofits involve modifying existing buildings by adding new technologies to improve their energy efficiency, decrease energy demand, and improve indoor living conditions. Retrofits can help alleviate humidity, mold, and drafts by improving ventilation and air filtration and can extend a buildings’ useful life by more than 50 years. There are three types of retrofits: Minor, major, and deep retrofits.
Modifications are low-cost and easy to implement, and can include:
- Sealing with caulking or spray foam.
- Adding insulation.
- Upgrading lighting systems.
A more holistic approach that is still minimally disruptive to building occupants. This can include:
- Replacing window glazing and doors.
- Updating inefficient heating and cooling systems.
- Installing low-flow faucets with sensors and automatic shutoffs.
- Installing sub-metering.
An extensive overhaul of the building’s systems that can save up to 60% in energy costs. Deep retrofits may be more disruptive to building occupants. This can include:
- Significantly reconfiguring the interior.
- Replacing the roof.
- Adding or rearranging windows to increase daylight.
- Replacing heating, ventilation, and cooling systems with renewable technology.
Instead of tearing down older inefficient buildings, the Reframed Lab proposes aggregating buildings together that need to be retrofitted. This can remove regulatory, financial, and technological barriers and spur innovation to reduce costs, minimize disturbances, and increase value to residents. In the Netherlands, the Energiesprong program has already retrofitted 2,000 dwellings to net-zero energy as of 2017 with 9,000 more contracted out. Combining the retrofits together has resulted in reduced installation times from two weeks to a few days and a reduction of costs by 50% over three years.