Dunsky Energy + Climate Advisors and RDH Building Science recently completed a study for the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) that proves the feasibility of decarbonizing Canada’s large buildings to meet net-zero targets by 2050. The study recommends new policies and strategies to decarbonize this market sector that accounts for 17% of Canada’s GHG emissions.  

“This is compelling research for governments and industry to understand how to increase the pace and scale of decarbonization efforts among Canada’s existing large buildings,” said Alex Hill, Partner at Dunsky and Lead for the firm’s Clean Energy Financing practice. “The study shows that leveraging today’s technology, deep carbon retrofits at scale are possible.”

The study is the first of its kind in Canada to examine such a wide a range of building archetypes (50) in such detail and assess the feasibility of large-scale decarbonization for each archetype. Among the report’s conclusions, we found:

  • Deep GHG savings can be achieved through electrical, enclosure and mechanical upgrades
  • A reduction of 70% or more in total energy use intensity can be achieved for nearly all building archetypes.
  • Timing and sequencing of retrofit measures around infrastructure renewal cycles are critical for emissions reductions and to support cost-effectiveness.
  • Enclosure upgrades are a once in a lifetime opportunity.

In evaluating the potential pathways to decarbonize buildings, the study examined the associated financial metrics of deep carbon retrofits. Cost effectiveness is a challenge for some building archetypes however, the business cases will strengthen over the long term due to planned carbon pricing increases. And while implementation and procurement strategies for building owners and operators can help overcome some of these barriers, a range of policies are needed to support and accelerate retrofits. The possible solutions to overcome barriers and spur market advancement include:

  • Informing the market via demonstration projects and requiring building owners to generate and disclose their building’s energy and carbon performance rating.
  • Strengthening workforce and industry capacity through training and collaboration
  • Enacting implementation support through carbon pricing and innovative financing
  • Accelerating the pace by enacting GHG performance requirements

To scale up deep carbon retrofits, governments at different levels will need to effectively integrate and align policies and initiatives. The study demonstrates that owners and operators of Canada’s larger buildings are critical actors in Canada’s climate emergency; their actions in the coming decades will help to determine whether Canada meets its emission reduction goals.

To read the summary report as well as the full study, visit the CaGBC website.

About Dunsky

Founded in 2004, Dunsky Energy + Climate Advisors supports leading governments, utilities, corporations and non-profits across North America in their efforts to accelerate the clean energy transition, effectively and responsibly.

Working across buildings, industry, energy and mobility, we support our clients through three key services: we quantify opportunities (technical, economic, market); design go-to-market strategies (plans, programs, policies); and evaluate performance (with a view to continuous improvement).