Better Data and Financing Tools Can Remove Barriers to Retrofit Action



As we work towards realizing our low carbon future, improving the efficiency of our buildings is a major hurdle for every community, including Calgary and Edmonton, where building emissions account for 40-60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.  

Energy efficiency improvements need to start with an understanding of how energy is used in a building and the type and age of the equipment, often done through a traditional energy audit. On-site audits can be costly and time-consuming, adding barriers to building owners having vital data to inform upgrade decision-making. 

Alberta Ecotrust, with support from RBC Foundation's Tech for Nature, undertook a pilot project - Accelerating Retrofits in Commercial Buildings - to test a digitized approach to collecting and presenting building information, in partnership with technology provider, Audette

Audette specializes in net-zero planning for commercial building portfolios and provided each participant with a 20+ year low-carbon transition plan, energy benchmark information, and a business case for retrofitting their building portfolio. 

Project Results

The project engaged 7 multifamily and commercial building owners from Calgary and Edmonton, with 78 buildings analyzed. 

Looking at the building data on an aggregated level, 3 Mt of greenhouse gas savings were identified, generated by 22 energy efficiency measures, which could result in $674 millions of carbon cost savings for the building owners over the next 28 years. 

The five energy efficiency measures with the greatest potential to reduce emissions across all of the buildings analyzed varied in complexity and cost. These included:

  • Ground source heat pumps

  • Micro combined heat and power domestic hot water

  • LED lighting

  • Heat recovery

  • Pumps/Fans Variable Frequency Drive (VFD)

Measures like LED lighting and VFDs are considered “low-hanging fruit” - rather, lower cost, easily implementable retrofits. This reveals a potentially significant, untapped opportunity for greenhouse emissions reductions in our commercial building sector. 

For a complete look at the aggregated building analysis, visit the interactive public dashboard.

[Visit the Dashboard]

From Plans to Action

In addition to integrating low-carbon measures into long-term capital upgrade budgets, the project also presented an alternative financing approach that could further reduce barriers to implementing retrofit projects.

National capital service provider, SOFIAC, offers an approach that involves the development, financing, and implementation of energy efficiency projects for clients; this support means that building owners do not need to have capacity within their organization to make projects possible. The need for upfront capital is waived and a project-generated savings repayment method further enables ease of project implementation. 

Call to Action

Alberta Ecotrust sees great potential in bringing this model to Alberta and invites any commercial building owner with an interest in improving their building performance to reach out to us to learn more about this innovative financing approach.

Applying Insights

Through this project, Audette was able to refine their approach and have now set their sights on an ambitious goal: to build a carbon reduction model for every commercial building in 150 cities across North America. 

It may seem simplistic, but this saying rings true, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. If we are to accelerate our emissions reduction efforts to the pace needed, access to data is key. A digitized building audit and long-term pathway to emissions reductions is a promising approach to driving decisions to retrofit for energy efficiency. Offering flexible and accessible options to pay for those upgrades, can further catalyze much needed emissions reductions efforts. 

To learn more about the Accelerating Retrofits in Commercial Buildings project, download the final report.

For more information please contact:

Stefanie Drozda, Program Specialist 

Alberta Ecotrust Foundation