Net-Zero Approaches

Deep Home Energy Retrofits

(Ottawa’s Energy Evolution)

While new homes are ideal for creating Net-Zero emission homes, retrofits can come close through many of the same changes that a new Net-Zero home requires. The reliance on gas and oil heating across Ottawa accounts for the majority of emissions for most homes and buildings.

Moving from a gas furnace or boiler and air-conditioner to an all-in-one electrical heat pump is the single best impact you can make on your homes’ emission expenditure. Heat-pumps and Solar Hot-Water heaters are two impactful actions we can take as individuals to reduce collective fossil-fuel reliance now and well into the future. The savings on utility bills also mean these appliances pay for themselves within a few years while providing consistent comfort through improved moisture and temperature regulation.

The ‘Deep’ part of Energy Retrofits comes from the need for complementary retrofit changes. For a heat pump to function effectively, it needs to be complemented with thorough air sealing and insulation to regulate temperature and moisture levels that benefit from a good ventilation plan. The first step to any building retrofit is undergoing a Home Energy Assessment to find the areas of energy loss in your home to inform best options to reduce costs on your wallet and the environment through addressing heat loss.

New Net-Zero Homes

Building a new home is the simplest way to reach Net-Zero building emissions, as there is more diverse innovation in available materials today than in 20th-century building construction. With over 50% of Ottawa buildings’ energy expenditure used for heating and cooling (see graph above) present heat-pumps as a practical and necessary change across old and new buildings to transition to a low-carbon economy!

New Net-Zero homes benefit from starting from scratch to form a well-insulated closed building envelope that better ensures ease of temperature and moisture regulation. Net-Zero homes are sealed with improved insulation, windows, and doors, accompanied by heat pumps, smart thermostats, and other energy-producing & water-saving fixtures to reach Net-Zero emissions.

Multi-Unit Residential Buildings

Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) include condos, apartments, and other multi-unit living spaces which share an entrance and some common materials. The ability for developers to save on comparable home savings from some shared material and utility reductions and savings from purchasing materials at a larger scale make MURBs ideal to currently scale for Net-Zero building.

The downside is that the more units and floors there are, the more forced heat exchange is required, resulting in snowballing energy use and more uncertainty with changing energy demands. For this reason, only MURBs that are three stories or less and have a building footprint of less than 600m2 qualify for Natural Resources Canada’s Green Homes Grant. MURBs can receive up to $20,000 for Deep Energy Retrofits if some individual residents apply as well. To Get Involved and make changes to your building, please see our Renting & Retrofit Page.

Community Developments

New community developments provide an opportunity to apply the latest in green-building technologies at a more affordable scale. One of the main benefits of building whole new communities is the consistency of models and materials that allows for bulk purchasing and reduced waste and costs. Developers have also taken advantage of building townhouses to reduce building footprint to save on land and material costs from some shared and bulk material costs.

Incorporating community members and regional factors into the development process can help identify inherent energy-saving functions and strategies for development. A recent Ottawa example of this is the Zibi Project at Chaudiere Falls that built new residences with an integrated heating and cooling system. This system uses a hydronic loop in partnership with Hydro Ottawa that supplies heat from the effluent of the nearby Kruger materials plant in the colder months. In the summer, heat is rejected through chillers into the Ottawa River to produce chilled water to cool the buildings. Prefabrication is another strategy to reduce material costs and production emissions by streamlining processes for ease of marketing, transportation, waste reduction and is well-suited for new residential developments.

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