Climate Resilience and Deep Retrofits

Climate Resilience and Deep Retrofits

*Courtesy of Pembina Institute

Climate Resilience and Deep Retrofits
Making our buildings future-ready including the installation of high performance windows and patio doors, calls for retrofitting with an understanding of climate change impacts. This means identifying potential shocks and stresses, and implementing appropriate solutions. To protect occupant health and assets, a building retrofit must take into account both climate adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as how they interact.

Building retrofits in a changing climate
Climate change has exposed buildings to chronic stresses (e.g. rising summer temperatures) and acute shocks (e.g. heat waves, wildfires), creating new vulnerabilities in the built environment. Traditional building retrofit solutions are based on historical data and characteristics of climate that no longer represent today’s reality. Our new and changing climate is reshaping solutions for building retrofits.

Rising average temperatures and longer, more frequent stretches of heat waves raise risks of occupants overheating in older, poorly constructed buildings. More than thermal discomfort, overheating can have serious health implications, especially for vulnerable populations, and retrofit solutions must anticipate future climate conditions that include rising temperatures. They should include envelope upgrades to reduce drafts and passive and active cooling measures.

Assessing climate change resilience
To properly understand the capacity of buildings to withstand exposure to climate hazards, climate change resilience assessment (including vulnerability and risk assessment) needs to be integrated into early planning stages of both new and existing building retrofit projects. Climate vulnerability and risk assessments should also model interactions among multiple hazards and at various scales. This means they should assess the compounding effects of a wildfire happening at the same time as a heat wave and also consider building-level as well as neighbourhood and municipal infrastructure impacts.

The outcomes of these assessments reveal the greatest risks a building is exposed to and are used to inform future-ready design strategies. By simulating building performance based on projections of future weather patterns and climate scenarios, designers can compare resilience of design alternatives and help building owners understand the long-term implications of their decisions.

Key considerations when assessing retrofitting
*  What supports do building owners need to carry out climate change resilience assessment at early stages of their building retrofit projects?
*  What is the framework for integrating climate mitigation and adaptation considerations in the planning and design process of building retrofit projects?
*  What adaptation measures can be easily integrated with typical energy retrofits? Which ones are more intrusive or costly, and what is the business rationale for advancing those?
*  What aspects of climate adaptation could be regulated under building retrofit codes?
*  How do we integrate the cost of adaptive measures into business plans? How do we recognize the value and protection of assets they offer?

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