Decarbonizing Buildings: Canada Could Lead the Way

Decarbonizing Canada's Buildings

In the report created by Haley & Torrie (2021), they state the need for a mission-based approach to completing massive retrofits to buildings across Canada in order to decarbonize buildings. This report describes the ambitious path we must take, cost savings that will come from this initiative and why we as Canadians should take on this mission.

The mission 

In order for us to begin decarbonizing buildings, we must explore news ways of taking on this challenge. Haley & Torrie suggest that this mission must be engrained into policy for it to be effective. Currently, the policy framework in Canada utilizes cost-benefit analysis to determine retrofit solutions and then provides financing and rebates within the existing market structure. This results in a poor level of performance that either creates high-cost energy saving opportunities or shallow energy savings (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.8).  

To change the current approach to building retrofits, it’s suggested that we should invite “multiple bottom-up solutions” and engage “diverse disciplines and sectors to promote learning and dynamic efficiencies” (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p. 8).  

A prime example of how targeted policies can create viable solutions is when you look at the clean technologies sector. Wind, solar and batteries have seen a dramatic reduction in costs due to policies and business models that promote and encourage technological innovation and economies of scale (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.7).   

Due to the climate emergency at hand, this mission must be ambitious and consistent. We need to aim to retrofit the building sector by 2035 and remove direct fossil fuel use from buildings. To move forward with this ambitious mission, it is imperative that public sector institutions will be capable of accepting risk, willing to collaborate and have open interaction and be flexible (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.8).  

Retrofits by 2035 

The goal of this mission is to have retrofitted all of Canada’s existing buildings to remove the direct use of fossil fuels by 2035. Doing this will make our buildings zero-carbon ready, via a high level of energy efficiency and use of a decarbonized energy supply” (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.59). From these retrofits, we will see a shift in the transportation industry as well through the redirection of clean energy resources away from energy waste (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.59). 

Benefits of Retrofitting Canada’s Buildings  

Aside from getting “carbon-zero ready” (p.59), Haley & Torrie state multiple benefits of undertaking deep retrofits:  

  • The removal of direct fossil fuel use 

  • Opening 50 TWh of clean electricity to be used in other industries 

  • Reduction of retrofit costs by at least 50%  

  • Reduction of time to complete a retrofit to 2-5 days 

  • Could reduce 60 Mt CO2eq per year (p.7) 

(2021, p.60).  

Lastly, these retrofits will allow us to be better prepared for extreme weather events cause by climate change. It will create a more comfortable, productive and healthy environment while also eliminating energy poverty and create high-quality housing for Indigenous Peoples (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.59). 

Why Canadians Should Take the Lead 

Canadians could take the lead in developing policy and methods for retrofits due to our harsh climates. Canada’s climate and geography are so diverse it brings the potential of Canada specializing in buildings that can perform in harsh climates by “creating systems for the widespread use of sustainable technology” (Haley & Torrie, 2021, p.64). 


What We Can Do 

In order to meet climate goals, the cost of building retrofits must decrease and increase in scale. A shift in policy and approach needs to happen for this to move forward at the rate it needs to. Retrofits will aid in the reduction of fossil fuel use, increase efficiency and reduce overall costs.  

If you’ve read this and are ready to take the step to increase your efficiency and reduce your costs, let’s talk. With years of experience and specialties in energy efficiency and building upgrades, we can find a solution that is best suited for you. 



Haley, B., & Torrie, R. (2021). Canada’s Climate Retrofit Mission. Ottawa: Efficiency Canada. Retrieved from: