Retrofitting old buildings for a carbon-free tomorrow

Minto on July 20, 2022

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Recently, CAGBC released Decarbonizing Canada’s Large Buildings, to evaluate the potential technical pathways to decarbonize building operations. Researchers from RDH Building Science, in partnership with Dunsky Energy + Climate Advisors, calculated estimated costs of deep carbon retrofits and identified market barriers and solutions. The study is geared towards helping equip Canadian building owners and policy-makers with tools and information needed to supercharge Canada’s retrofit economy.

Minto, a CAGBC member, has started their journey toward zero. They recently engaged RDH Building Science to complete a deep retrofit study at their Castleview property and have made the findings public. By sharing the results of their study, Minto hopes other commercial owners and developers will follow suit, so together we can accelerate deep retrofits.

Read more about Minto’s efforts:

Older buildings can be big carbon emitters. According to Canada’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Canada’s homes and buildings account for 13 percent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Government of Canada has set a target for all new and existing buildings to achieve net zero carbon (NZC) by 2050, with other provinces and municipalities introducing frameworks to achieve that goal even sooner.

“Minto has been investing in electricity and natural gas reduction measures at our commercial buildings and multi-unit residential buildings for decades,” says Joanna Jackson, Director of Sustainability and Innovation. “As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we have been piloting and planning in order to prepare a road map for the journey to a net zero carbon future by 2050.”

To meet this goal, we’re taking a two-pronged approach:

  1. Preventing heat loss by improving the building envelope
    Older buildings typically have little insulation in the walls, inefficient windows, and leaky seals—leading to heat loss. We prioritize improvements to the building envelope to minimize the heating and cooling load. 
  2. Converting to more efficient electric heating systems
    Many of our older buildings rely on carbon-based, natural gas fueled boilers for heating purposes; however, alternative electric technologies are much more efficient and can run on sources of green electricity. We need to replace our natural gas heating and hot water systems with more efficient electric ones. 

Minto has already completed two studies on older buildings to better understand this process, like our Castleview deep retrofit pilot project.

We’re currently assessing the age and condition of other buildings across our portfolio so we can plan for building envelope and heating system upgrades when these components reach the end of their expected lifespan.
Contributed article, Minto