Accelerating B.C.’s economic recovery through building retrofitsSubmission to the Government of British Columbia

Publication - July 28, 2020 - By Madi Kennedy, Tom-Pierre Frappé-Sénéclauze, Ghazal Ebrahimi

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the economy, resulting in 13% of B.C. workers becoming unemployed, including 11% of the construction sector. In response, the B.C. government has committed to invest $1.5 billion to accelerate recovery and to maintain support for impacted industries in Budget 2021. The preliminary plan states reconciliation and clean growth will be at the heart of the recovery effort. In this, B.C. is in good company; the “build back better” approach — aligning economic recovery with action on climate change — has been championed by public and private organizations around the world, including representatives of the United Nations and OECD.

Building retrofits can help us build back better by advancing multiple government objectives including housing affordability, climate mitigation and adaptation, poverty reduction, and public health. Retrofits are also an effective tool for economic recovery because they create a high number of jobs per dollar invested (8–27 jobs/$ million), employ a range of skilled labour, use mostly local materials, and create employment where people live.

The B.C. government is soliciting feedback on the $1.5 billion Economic Recovery Fund. The following document outlines the Pembina Institute’s recommendations for investing in building retrofits through the Economic Recovery Fund and Budget 2021.

Download the full submission, or read a summary of the guiding principles and recommendations below.

Guiding principles

To address these challenges, we recommend that stimulus investments in the building sector be guided by the following five key principles.

  • Integrate public health and climate objectives for low-carbon resilience
  • Target funding to increase equity
  • Go deep, rather than wide
  • Build the workforce
  • Pair short-term incentives with policy measures to sustain long-term action


  1. Boost CleanBC incentives for deep retrofits in homes and buildings
  2. Accelerate retrofits and construction of social housing
  3. Deepen renovations of public sector buildings 
  4. Increase workforce and supply chain development


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