This is one of the 26 segments of Guy Dauncey’s Climate Emergency: A 26-Week Transition Program for Canada. Excerpted by permission.
Buildings produce 12% of Canada’s GHGs. The challenge is two-fold: new builds, and retrofitting Canada’s 15 million homes and 480,000 industrial, commercial and institutional buildings.
New Builds. The Passive House standard is so efficient that the only heat source needed is a small heat recovery ventilator. It costs 4-5% more to build, but with no heating bills, the additional cost zeroes out within a number of years. The city of Brussels has shown that the Passive House standard can work for an entire city. They made the decision in 2011, giving carpenters four years to learn the new skills, and since 2015 every building, large or small, has been built to this standard.
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- To give builders and carpenters time to prepare, we will upgrade Canada’s building code to require every new building in Canada to be built to the Passive House Standard or an equivalent net-zero energy ready design by 2025, advancing the compliance date from the current 2030. We will continue our Net Zero Homes Grants that offer up to $5,000 for newly-built homes that are certified net-zero emissions.
- To develop the necessary building skills, we will offer a $250,000 Sustainable Buildings Course Development Grant to each of Canada’s 150 technical and vocational colleges and 12 schools of architecture, enabling tradespeople, architects, engineers, project managers, and software developers to embrace the scale of work needed. Cost: $40 million one-off (#14)
- To enable architects, engineers, project managers, builders, and trades workers to acquire Passive House and building retrofit skills, we will fund 50,000 Sustainable Buildings Skills Training Placements a year. Cost: 50,000 x 25k = $1,250 million per year (#15)
- To enable building inspectors and managers to acquire the skills needed to assess Passive Houses and building retrofits, we will establish a $5-million Sustainable Building Inspectors Training Fund. Cost: $5 million one-off (#16)
- The new standard will also apply to the 20,000 new homes that need to be build each year for low-income families, to address the affordable homes crisis.
Building Retrofits. Canada has 15 million homes, most of which will need an energy retrofit to make them more energy efficient and to replace the use of oil or gas with heat pumps or biofuel.
- To encourage greater building efficiency, starting in 2021 we will require every building that is listed for sale to carry an Energy Benchmarking Label to indicate its level of efficiency.
- We will offer every homeowner and landlord a free energy audit plus follow-up visit, averaging 1.6 million homes a year over 10 years. Cost: 1.5 million @ $600 = $900 million per year (#17)
- To incentivize owners to retrofit their buildings by 2030 we will apply an annually increasing Climate Danger Levy to the use of oil and natural gas heaters and furnaces after 2030.
- To assist homeowners and landlords, in addition to the personal support offered by the 40,000 local Climate Action Coordinators (Week 5), we will offer interest-free Home Energy Retrofit Loans averaging $10,000 per unit for an average 1.5 million homes a year. This is a fourfold increase compared to the current target of 1.5 million homes over four years, but the interest-free loans are reduced from $40,000 to $10,000 to retain the same ballpark cost. The rising carbon tax on oil and gas will create an increasing incentive to undertake a retrofit, with added insulation, vapour barriers, efficient windows, etc. A ductless air-source heat pump costs around $5,000 before local utility rebates. On the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba, ground-source or water-source heat pumps cost around $18,000 per home, permitting heating when the outside temperature is -20°C and reducing energy costs by 40%. In Halifax, they cost $15,500 in 2015. In Ontario, they cost between $22,500 and $29,000. Cost: $15 billion per year (#18)
To generate simple zero-downpayment financing:
- We will work with the provinces to require every utility to offer 100% Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) financing, as Manitoba Hydro does, financing loan repayments by the savings on the household energy bill. We will require Indigenous Services Canada to allow PAYS financing for First Nations social enterprises.
- We will work with the provinces, Canada’s largest cities, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to establish a firm legal framework for 100% Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, enabling long-term building retrofit loans that are repaid by a charge on the property tax that runs with the property, not the owner. PACE originated in the U.S. in 2008 and has been used to finance 237,000 home and commercial retrofits worth $6.7 billion, creating 63,000 jobs, all without taxpayer support.
- We will empower utilities and landlords to contract with energy service companies (ESCOs) and social enterprises to undertake building retrofits, financed through the energy savings, with the estimated energy savings being protected by insurance.
- We will advance tenant renovation security legislation to ensure that if tenants need to live elsewhere during a retrofit their landlords will work with their local municipalities to ensure that alternative rental arrangements are available, and to honour their post-retrofit tenancy at the same rent. Model: Vermont.
- We will establish CMHC interest-free zero-energy modular homes loans to encourage Canada’s one million mobile home owners to replace their homes. A zero-energy solar modular home costs more than a regular mobile home, but without any heating bills, it costs less per month in combined mortgage and energy costs. Model: Vermont. Cost: 100,000 homes a year @ $350,000 = $3.5 billion per year (#19)
- We will offer $1 million per year in District Heat Development Grants and $50 million per year in interest-free District Heat Implementation Loans to encourage Canada’s municipalities to develop renewable energy district heating systems for 50 communities a year. Cost: $50 million per year grants (#20) and $2.5 billion per year loans (#21)
- We will offer Industrial, Commercial and Institution Building Retrofit Loans averaging $100,000 at 5% to assist owners of industrial, commercial and institutional buildings to undertake energy retrofits. With an estimated 480,000 ICI buildings, the rising carbon tax, and natural gas and heating oil being phased out by 2033, we will need to achieve an average of 48,000 ICI retrofits per year, or 1,000 per week. Cost: $4.8 billion per year (#22)
The challenge of this pace and scale of work is enormous. A consulting engineering company in Vancouver, with 20 licenced engineers or EITs (Engineer in Training) and nine support staff, does 20 to 50 commercial retrofits a year, suggesting 0.5 to 1.0 engineer job-years per retrofit. On this basis, 48,000 retrofits per year would require between 24,000 and 48,000 new engineers. Engineering Canada has 300,000 members, only 13.5% of whom are women. Of the 13,808 people who graduated from accredited post-secondary engineering programs in 2014, only 40% (7,825) became licenced engineers, suggesting a serious need for online courses, faster and easier licencing for immigrant engineers, and specialized building retrofit training certification.
- We will establish a Deep Retrofits Training Consortium, including representatives from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), Engineers Canada, engineering, architecture, and design faculties, and high school co-op programs, and charge it to bring STEM education and deep retrofit skills to a wider demographic that includes women, Indigenous students, and new Canadians.
- We will provide a $250,000 Deep Retrofits Course Development Grant to the new Consortium, seeking a rapid response. Cost: $250,000 one-off (#23)
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