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Climate change is a pressing human health challenge that is garnering a global response. Governments at all levels in Canada are setting emission-reduction targets and developing programs to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. As we know, governments may be good at setting targets and funding programs but, in the buildings sector, the real work of lowering carbon emission will be in the hands of the actual businesses and trades that provide advice and carry out the work of upgrading building systems. Meeting the country’s targets will require innovation and leadership from our industry.

HRAI wants to better understand how to help members prepare for the opportunities that are on the horizon.

In recent years, the limits of “incremental conservation” approaches have become apparent: despite spending millions on energy reduction targets, Canada has not come close to meeting its Paris Accord commitments. The failure of incrementalism is leading governments to seek deeper solutions, such as Net Zero or Passive House building certifications.

Much has been done to improve new construction, especially in low-rise residential homes, and even with improved building code standards and voluntary efficiency standards like Energy Star, new homes are still significant carbon emission contributors, in part because of the embodied carbon emissions in the materials used in construction (an estimated 50 tonnes per new home before people even move in).

Even if new buildings can be brought to “net zero,” greater opportunities for reductions exist in the existing building stock.  This is why governments’ focus is turning to retrofitting existing homes in order to achieve more immediate carbon reduction targets through efficiency improvements and fuel switching.

Programs that simply replace mid-efficiency gas furnaces with high-efficiency models are long gone as there are few additional gains to be made on this front.  More and more, the holistic “building-as-a-system” approach is being pursued, requiring the symbiotic interaction of envelope and HVAC system improvements, while introducing passive and renewable energy options. Going forward, programs will be looking to promote low-carbon fuel sources and super-insulated building envelopes in an integrated way. They will require more extensive building systems modelling and analysis, and a more integrated delivery approach.

This creates a leadership opportunity for the HVACR industry. HVACR tradespeople are trusted experts whose advice building owners and operators seek for solutions to the building performance needs. HVACR contractors can build on that trust, and offer a broader range of home/building solutions that improve performance and lower carbon output.

HRAI advocates for well-designed and thoughtful programs and policies that will benefit members and future generations. To assist in this work we need to better understand and address the barriers that may be preventing or hindering industry members from taking a leadership role in climate change program delivery, so we can work to remove or overcome those barriers and help members take full advantage of the growth opportunities.

To this end, HRAI has undertaken a research project entitled: Overcoming Implementation Barriers to HVAC-led Building Retrofits, funded by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF).

HRAI Members are encouraged to participate in this research by registering for an online focus group workshop on April 22 (9am – Noon) or April 27 (1pm – 4pm).

Please email Len Hart at LHart@ClimateActionServices.com to register!