Toronto wants to help buildings go deep with retrofit program

The city will help fund the deepest private building energy retrofits.

The city of Toronto skyline.

The city of Toronto is looking to encourage deep building retrofits. – City of Toronto

Key Takeaways:

  • Deep energy retrofit projects could receive up to $500,000 in funding.
  • A panel of experts will choose 10 to 16 of the best project applications for funding.
  • The city is eager to curb greenhouse gas emissions from buildings as they cause roughly 57 per cent of total community-wide emissions.

The Whole Story:

Toronto has opened applications for its Deep Retrofit Challenge, an initiative to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings in the city.

Encouraging deeper retrofits

The challenge will provide funding to support deeper-than-planned energy retrofits in 10 to 16 privately-owned buildings, with the goal of accelerating emissions reductions and identifying pathways to net zero that can be replicated in other buildings. The project is funded through a $5 million investment provided by Natural Resources Canada’s Green Infrastructure – Energy Efficient Buildings Program.

Successful applicants will receive a grant equal to 25 per cent of their total project costs up to a maximum of $500,000 – depending on gross floor area and building performance – to offset the incremental design and construction costs required to achieve maximum emissions reductions.

Who can apply

Buildings must be located within Toronto and be an Ontario Building Code Part 3 building, meaning greater than 600 square metres or greater than three storeys. Eligible buildings include:

  • Multi-unit residential buildings (including condominiums, apartments, etc.)
  • Commercial office buildings
  • Mixed-use buildings (residential and commercial, including residential over commercial)

Eligible projects must:

  • Involve a deep retrofit that reduces both GHG emissions and energy usage by at least 50 per cent.
  • Meet a 20-year payback period or better.
  • Be completed and operational by January 1, 2025.

Projects must use a comprehensive whole-building approach, considering how components of the building work together as an integrated system. Eligible measures include:

  • Building enclosure improvements such as insulation, high-performance windows and air sealing.
  • Energy recovery (ventilation, drain or equipment).
  • Electric heat pumps (ground or air-source) for space hating and hot water.
  • Renewable electricity generation.
  • Building controls.

How projects are chosen

The city says the projects will be selected through a “competition-style” process. A design meeting organized by the city will assemble a variety of specialists to identify energy and environmental improvements that may be achieved by the selected projects, and opportunities to advance the design to maximize emissions reductions. Net zero buildings typically eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

Building owners may also apply to the City’s Energy Retrofit Loan program and High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support program to assist in funding their projects, as well as incentives available from other sources.

Marching towards net zero

The city hope the challenge encourages early compliance with the City’s Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy and advance the goals and targets of the TransformTO Net Zero Climate Action Strategy, including the city’s net zero by 2040 emissions reduction target. 

“The projects will serve to demonstrate the deep energy retrofits needed to move buildings towards net zero emissions, with the goal of accelerating market adoption,” said the city.

Officials noted that buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto, creating approximately 57 per cent of total community-wide emissions, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels for heating and hot water. 

To achieve the emissions reduction trajectory needed to reach net zero by 2040, community-wide emissions from all sources must be sliced in half in the next eight years. The City controls only about five per cent of community-wide GHG emissions directly through its own buildings and operations.

The city also committed to release information from the projects, including designs, budgets and performance data to drive case studies, technical reports and academic research. They hope this information will help promote community knowledge of deep retrofits and facilitate the uptake of deep retrofits.


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