Climate-Conscious Building: Retrofit Revolution

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Existing buildings are too often significant carbon emitters. Deep energy retrofits represent a large market opportunity that is slowly but increasingly gaining attention.

In New York the exact size of that market is being pinned down as part of ongoing efforts to industrialize multifamily retrofits through NYSERDA’s RetrofitNY initiative. A parallel effort led by the Rocky Mountain Institute is tackling a pilot multifamily retrofit in Boston. In Canada three large-scale tower renovations are underway.

And across North America, in a variety of climates, single-family homes are being fixed up and revitalized as deeply energy-efficient, comfortable houses. 

As ambitious as deep energy retrofits are, reducing emissions from the built environment requires considering both embodied and operational carbon emissions.

To say that trying to figure out the overall impacts in any given project is a complex task is a gross understatement, and yet our changing climate demands that we not shy away from this task.  In “Can Buildings Be Leveraged to Help Reverse Climate Change?” Philippe St-Jean thoughtfully addresses this topic, reporting on several tools that simplify the required calculations.

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Articles in this Issue


Stepwise Tower Retrofit

This 20 stories high, the 300-unit tower built in 1974 is about to under go a huge Passive House retrofit in Windsor, Ontario.


Kick-Starting Industrialized Retrofits in Halifax

Lorrie Rand, Principal at Habit Studio, worked with Nick Rundnicki, of RSI Project to found the ReCover Initiative tackling deep energy retrofits.


Catalyzing Zero-Carbon Retrofits

REALIZE, a Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) initiative, aims to catalyze a zero-carbon retrofit revolution.


A Remodel Designed for the Austin Market

Retrofit and remodel of 100-year-old Craftsman-style house that now reaches Passive House levels.


Evolving Practices of Onion Flats

Onion Flats in Philadelphia is moving toward affordable housing


Skeena Residence - a Community Asset

Skeena Hall is a student housing residence hall at the university of British Columbia in Vancouver


A Resilient Senior Community

The Oaks at Rose Villa 12 Craftsman-style Passive House homes for older adults in Portland, Oregon by Green Hammer


Berkeley Passive Houses

The Berkeley Way project is located in the relatively flat area of Berkeley close to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system


Passive House Pilots Completed in Mexico

Thirty low-income Passive House pilots have been completed due to funding from the European Union’s LAIF Component of the EcoCasa Program.


RetrofitNY Enters Second Phase

RetrofitNY, NYSERDA’s initiative to scale up deep energy retrofits of multifamily buildings to the Passive House standard


PHASED Twin Towers EnerPHit

For more than 40 years, two concrete high-rise towers in North Vancouver owned by Affordable Housing have been providing high-quality affordable housing, but decades of use have led to the need for a serious overhaul.


QueenMary in Fort Langley

Karel Jonker is working on his third Passive House in British Columbia, and he’s set an extremely ambitious airtightness goal of 0.15 or even 0.1 ACH50.


Can Buildings Be Leveraged To Help Reverse Climate Change?

Building operations account for 28% of annual GHG emissions. Passive House pillars, like airtightness and thermal performance, can reduce building emissions.


A Multiyear Home Retrofit

Jesper Kruse, builder in Maine, did a phased retrofit of his family's home in Bethel.


Q&A with Chris Ballard

Chris Ballard is the executive director of Passive House Canada. He sat down with Sydney Gladu to talk about Passive House and his transition from politics to building.

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