Deep Energy Retrofit Pilot Program
Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing buildings plays a key role in helping B.C. meet its climate action goals. We developed the Deep Energy Retrofit Pilot Program to improve the building envelopes and mechanical systems of 20 homes and four multi-unit residential buildings across the province. The goal of this pilot is to reduce their energy use and associated GHG emissions by at least 50 per cent.
What’s a deep energy retrofit?
A deep energy retrofit aims to improve the energy performance of existing homes and buildings using a holistic approach that targets improvements in two major areas:
- the building envelope (including walls, windows, doors, and insulation)
- mechanical systems (heating, hot water and ventilation)
Deep energy retrofits help make the whole building more airtight and well-insulated as well as upgrading mechanical systems to high efficiency. The goal is to reduce whole-building energy use by at least 50 per cent.
Why are deep energy retrofits a priority now?
Many existing homes and buildings in B.C. were not built for optimal energy efficiency, especially those built before the adoption of the National Energy Code for Buildings in the 1990s. These thousands of homes and buildings are expected to be occupied and used for years to come. And in response to climate change, we need to not only reduce their energy use and GHG emissions but also make them more comfortable and safer to live in through more frequent extremes of hot and cold weather.
Communities need to significantly lower GHG emissions from existing buildings to achieve net-zero climate action goals, and deep energy retrofits are a way to do that.
Customers who choose to sign up for low-carbon and renewable gases1 such as Renewable Natural Gas2 can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.
Deep energy retrofit pilot participants
The deep energy retrofit pilot involves 20 single-family homes and four multi-unit residential buildings across B.C., including the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Okanagan and Kootenays. The pilot aims to:
- demonstrate a variety of energy reduction approaches and technologies
- verify energy use and emissions reductions
- identify any issues with implementation or customer acceptance in real-world, lived-in homes and buildings
We hope the information gathered through this pilot supports the development of a larger-scale deep energy retrofit program for all of our customers.
The 20 participating single-family homes in this pilot were built between the 1920s and 1990s. Each home receives a professional energy evaluation to determine the most cost-effective improvements for their unique situation and needs. Most homes in the program will receive a comprehensive retrofit package that includes:
- new energy-efficient windows and doors
- added insulation in walls, attic and/or basement or crawlspace (if required)
- improved airtightness and air sealing
- new high-efficiency furnace or boiler
- new heat recovery ventilation system
Some participants will receive additional energy conservation measures such as:
- additional wall insulation
- exterior cladding
- hybrid heating system (electric air source heat pump and high-efficiency gas furnace)
Of the four multi-unit residential buildings in the pilot, two are rental apartment buildings and two are non-profit housing buildings, and all were built in the 1970s. Each building undergoes detailed energy evaluations to determine which upgrades will be installed, as well as measurement and verification of energy savings after installation.
Project partners and implementation consultants are working together to help minimize disruptions to people who live in these buildings during the retrofit process.
Building type: concrete high-rise, non-profit housing
Project partners: Pendrellis Society, Terra Property Management, City of Vancouver, BC Housing, BC Non-Profit Housing Association
Building type: concrete high-rise, rental apartments
Project partners: Bentall Green Oak
Location: North Vancouver
Building type: low-rise, non-profit housing
Project partners: Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation, Pembina Institute
Building type: low-rise, rental apartments
Project partners: Kelson Group, Landlord BC
1FortisBC uses the term renewable and low-carbon gas to refer collectively to the low-carbon gases or fuels that the utility can acquire under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation, which are: Renewable Natural Gas (RNG or
biomethane), hydrogen, synthesis gas (from wood waste) and lignin. FortisBC’s renewable and low-carbon portfolio currently includes only renewable natural gas. Other gases and fuels may be added to the program over time. Depending on their source, all of these
gases have differing levels of lifecycle carbon intensity. However, all of these gases are low-carbon when compared to the lifecycle carbon intensity of conventional natural gas. The current burner tip carbon intensity of RNG is 0.29gCO2e/MJ
and the current RNG portfolio lifecycle emissions are -22gCO2e/MJ. This is below B.C.’s carbon intensity threshold for low-carbon gases of 36.4 gCO2e/MJ set out in the 2021 B.C. Hydrogen Strategy
2Renewable Natural Gas is produced in a different manner than conventional natural gas. It is derived from biogas, which is produced from decomposing organic waste from landfills, agricultural waste and wastewater from treatment facilities. The biogas is captured and cleaned to create Renewable Natural Gas (also called biomethane).