Canada’s existing buildings hold key to climate targetsClear strategy for energy-efficiency upgrades needed for deep emissions reductions

Aug. 29, 2017

An office building receives an energy-efficiency retrofit in Edmonton. Photo: Roberta Franchuk, Pembina Institute

VANCOUVER and TORONTO — Governments at all levels in Canada are moving toward requiring new homes and buildings to be constructed to low-carbon, ultra energy-efficient standards by 2030. But Canada still lacks a comprehensive strategy to achieve the significant reductions in carbon pollution from existing buildings that are necessary to meet our country’s climate targets.

Today, the Pembina Institute and The Atmospheric Fund released a discussion paper titled Energy Regulations for Existing Buildings. The paper identifies key opportunities and challenges for the federal government to consider as it works with the provinces to create and implement such a strategy for existing buildings.

Although supporting measures such as financing, incentives, energy labeling, and voluntary programs are critical tools, the paper points out that an ambitious and clear pathway set through building codes and regulations is essential for deep emissions reductions.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change committed to the development of a national model code for existing buildings by 2022. Provinces, territories, and municipalities could then adopt the model retrofit code as part of their building regulations.

Establishing the overall level of carbon reductions needed in Canada’s building sector, and setting targets for reductions from existing buildings are key considerations in the development of retrofit code requirements.

Reducing the energy used by existing buildings through codes will result in reduced operating costs for homeowners due to lower energy or maintenance costs, and economic benefits from retrofit activity and investment in the building stock.


“Significantly reducing carbon pollution from our existing buildings is essential to making good on Canada’s climate commitments. We need the federal and provincial governments to work together to set out a clear and ambitious pathway to deep emissions reductions in the existing building stock.”
— Karen Tam Wu, director of the Buildings and Urban Solutions Program, Pembina Institute

“While the federal government has set economy-wide emissions targets, it has yet to define the carbon reductions expected from each sector, including the building sector. Establishing targets for Canada’s existing building stock is needed to guide a comprehensive retrofit strategy for Canada — one that includes the development of stronger building codes and regulations.”
— Bryan Purcell, director of policy and programs, The Atmospheric Fund

Quick facts

  • Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly a quarter of Canada’s carbon pollution.
  • Every $1 million invested in energy efficiency generates $3-4 million in economic growth.


Download the discussion paper: Energy Regulations for Existing Buildings


Stephen Hui
Communications Lead, Pembina Institute
Tw: @StephenHui


Letter: Time for Canada to lead the way to ultra energy-efficient buildings

Infographic: The many benefits of energy efficient homes and buildings

Op-ed: Constructing our future with low-carbon buildings

Report: Deep Emissions Reduction in the Existing Building Stock


About us

The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto.

The Atmospheric Fund invests in urban low-carbon solutions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. TAF is supported by dedicated endowment funds provided by the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario.


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