Building Workforce Capacity and Solutions to Capitalize on Retrofit Opportunities

Canada’s green retrofit economy is primed for significant growth between now and 2050, and this growth will come with many benefits. Through green retrofits, Canada’s buildings can contribute to net-zero climate targets, make buildings more resilient to climate change and extreme weather events, and provide rewarding job opportunities while strengthening the domestic supply of low-carbon products and services.  In the recently published Green Retrofit Economy Study, findings show that greening Canada’s buildings has the potential to create 75,000 jobs annually on the pathway to net zero, a benefit recognized from a vibrant and growing retrofit economy.

The study demonstrates that green retrofits that lower the carbon footprint of buildings have the potential to generate up to 2.1 million job years and help Canada meet its 2030 and 2050 climate targets. 

Growing the low-carbon economy is a key component of the Canadian federal government’s plan to generate economic growth while mitigating the worst impacts of climate change and reducing environmental impacts. Over $3.6 billion has been committed to finance energy efficiency upgrades and low-carbon retrofits for large buildings as a way to meet GHG emission reduction targets. This historically significant investment will require the green building workforce to triple by 2030 to meet the demand for sustainable building construction and renovation.

To realize the opportunities that exist from this investment, Canada will need to lean heavily on a skilled, qualified, and growing workforce, as well as an accessible and affordable supply chain of relevant low-carbon products, materials, and equipment. A shortage of skilled workers, such as carpenters, HVAC trades, plasterers and drywall installers, as well as mechanical engineers and technicians, is expected in the near term, even without an increase in retrofit projects. 

Governments, employers, and educators must be focused on reskilling existing workers and growing the workforce by removing the stigma associated with trades and reaching underrepresented groups. The right resources and supports need to be in place as retrofit activity accelerates in the face of the rising cost of carbon. Enhancing expertise and knowledge across the retrofit spectrum, however, including among decision-makers, designers, financing experts and consultants, will help to address the complexity and capital constraints associated with retrofit investments.

Investments in a robust, accessible, and an affordable supply chain are also needed to drive innovation and secure access to the products and services needed to complete green retrofits at scale. The report identified more than 25 technologies and products that are directly relevant to low-carbon retrofits, including building automation systems, heat pumps, heat and energy recovery systems, wall recladding systems, thermal bridging technology and integrated photovoltaics.  

In order to realize growth in the green retrofit economy and the associated benefits, the existing approach to retrofit projects will need to level up and transform to a more systematic ecosystem of aggregated project and investment opportunities. Building owners and managers will need expert support in developing and implementing transition plans to leverage building renewal cycles and market opportunities. 

Building a green retrofit economy is multifaceted and by putting enabling conditions in place, such as supporting policy, labour capacity, and technology, among others mentioned in the report, a thriving green retrofit economy can be achieved in communities across Canada while helping meet climate targets. 

Images utilized in this article are provided by Canada Green Building Council and are used here with permission. 

About the Report:

Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) and the Delphi Group‘s new study, Green Retrofit Economy Study, profiles key pathways that will equip the green building ecosystem with insights into the workforce and supply chain needs across Canada’s retrofit economy. It is available at cagbc.org/retrofit-economy. The report was made possible with support from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), the Ontario Construction Secretariat, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

About the Author:

Canada Green Building Council

The Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) supports and champions green building in Canada. CAGBC services and products help the building sector adopt the practices needed to produce and operate buildings that are better for people and the planet. Working with the building sector and stakeholders, we are building our way forward to a sustainable and low-carbon future. Learn more at cagbc.org.

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