Renovations will be key to Nova Scotia’s net zero goal, experts say – .

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Renovations will be key to Nova Scotia’s net zero goal, experts say – .


As Nova Scotia strives for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, researchers and advocates say the province should tap into an underrated public infrastructure: private buildings.
In Nova Scotia, almost half of these emissions come from residential and non-residential buildings. This is due to the high proportion of older buildings, oil furnaces and carbon-intensive energy grids in the province.

In places like Halifax the number is even higher. Seventy percent of the municipality’s emissions come from buildings.

A recent Efficiency Canada report estimated that it will take nearly a century and a half at current rates to make existing low-rise residential buildings across the country more energy efficient.

With a need to reduce emissions, Nova Scotia officials and organizations are proposing projects and policies that could help pick up the pace.

Modular panels used as a retrofit solution

A potential modernization model is proposed for an apartment building on Lawrence Street in Halifax.

Nick Rudnicki, one of the managing directors of the ReCover initiative, said the Simple Building is the study site for a project that would use modular panels to retrofit the building in a month or less.

Seventy percent of Halifax’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. (Dave Irish/CBC)

“We looked at it in depth last spring, and we determined that we could build panels that contained the windows, that all the siding was already installed, that all the insulation was installed, and that we fastened them to the window. exterior of the building.

This renovation would make the building net zero without requiring tenants to move out during the renovations.

The speed of the approach would accelerate the pace of modernization, but it presents a significant obstacle.

Initial cost an obstacle

“There’s just the cost right now – the risk that’s sort of induced by this concept not being proven yet,” Rudnicki said.

“You go to the lending agencies, you go to the granting agencies in the public and private sectors, and they say, ‘We don’t have documents for this. “”

The concept has proven itself elsewhere. However, the ReCover initiative follows a Dutch model called Energy leap, where modular panels, along with rooftop solar panels and heating upgrades, have been used to make public housing net zero in this country.

Similar projects are also being tested in other countries, notably in Ottawa, where a social housing provider has partnered with Natural Resources Canada on a pilot project involving the installation of prefabricated panels and solar panels on four townhouses.

Rudnicki said he hoped to see more policymakers supporting these kinds of initiatives, including adjusting the funding structure to support major renovations.

Halifax Modernization Initiative

In Halifax, the city is looking for ways to encourage more extensive renovations as part of the city’s emissions reduction strategy.

Kevin Boutilier, a clean energy specialist in the city’s environment and climate change division, said that to meet the targets of 75% emission reductions by 2030 and net zero by 2050 , the municipality will have to carry out extensive renovations (i.e. a 50% reduction in energy demand) on all residential and non-residential buildings by 2040.

In July, the regional council approved a pilot project to help the city achieve this goal, which will work similarly to the Solar City initiative. The city would cover the initial costs of the solar panels and residents would pay them back over 10 years.

Boutilier says details are still being worked out, but will likely cover upgrades such as heat pumps, insulation, and transitions to a less carbon-intensive heating fuel. The pilot project will also create a position to help residents navigate the renovation process.

A worker installs solar panels on the roof of the Halifax Police Station in 2011. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

The project will finance a maximum of 50 homes at approximately $ 70,000 each, for a total of $ 3.5 million. Boutilier said the price reflects that they want homeowners to do a complete renovation rather than go for simpler options like heat pumps.

“We really want to offer the full package so that the average ROI of all the items is reasonable for the owners. “

But to meet the city’s goals, renovations will need to increase dramatically, from the 50 homes in the project to around 5,000 per year. “We don’t see the municipality as a bank on this scale,” said Boutilier.

He noted that the municipality has also received grants to examine how the city could partner with third-party institutions to provide funding for more renovations. This could include options such as the modular approach that ReCover is developing.

“We are 100% open to technologies that could emerge over the next two years,” said Boutilier.

An open letter signed by a number of Nova Scotia organizations is also calling for action at the provincial level, including adopting a net zero building code by 2022 and phasing out fossil fuels on site existing buildings by 2030, with a particular focus on low-income homeowners.

A necessary large-scale change that has never been achieved before

Nationally, changes are also needed, said Brendan Haley, Policy Director for Efficiency Canada.

Nova Scotia aims to have a zero net footprint in less than 30 years. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

” Meet [Canada’s] climate change goals, we really need to renovate buildings on a scale that has never been achieved before. ”

Rather than being seen as one-off individual projects, Haley said the modernization should be seen as an improvement in the country’s infrastructure.

Thinking about renovations in this way might not only help Canadians understand the collective impact of buildings, but could also help fund upgrades, Haley said – for example, by bundling a set of renovations together so they can be funded. collectively.

The cost could reach $ 32 billion per year over 30 years

Even with policies in place, funding building renovations across the country would be costly.

Efficiency Canada estimates that this would cost up to $ 32 billion per year over the next three decades. Nonetheless, it is essential that the country live up to its commitments and prepare for the effects of climate change, Haley said.

“One thing we will really have to think about in the future is the role of buildings and adaptation to climate impacts,” he said.

While Efficiency Canada’s proposed renovation targets – and those set in places like Halifax – are ambitious, Haley said they are achievable, provided the collective impact of individual buildings is recognized.

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