The retrofitting of existing buildings is a central component of the climate action plans of virtually every city in North America. Many of today’s buildings were constructed in an era of inexpensive fossil fuels, the impacts of which were largely unknown. The opportunities to lower emissions by improving energy efficiency in buildings is significant and most of the simplest available measures are well understood and are regularly implemented in buildings of various types. However, while many buildings perform efficiency upgrades to individual systems, there are limited examples of occupied buildings that perform the type of integrated retrofits that are likely needed for most cities to meet their climate action goals. Upgrading existing buildings will require significant resources and in addition to raw efficiency must also deliver a high-quality environment, be primed for a future powered by renewable energy, and provide resiliency in the face of future climate fluctuations and crises.
The emphasis in the study is on selecting the required energy conservation measures, and how these might be phased in over time while the building is occupied. More briefly, we will also describe code and regulatory barriers to pursuing this deep retrofit, the most important technical and market challenges, and how capital planning for such measures might be organized. The goal of this work is providing a high-level guidance document that will allow similar such buildings to envision a phased deep retrofit of their own building in the absence of relevant examples.