Building Envelopes, Energy Efficiency and Funding Options

Residential buildings in BC are responsible for a significant share of the province’s overall greenhouse gas emissions – more than the equivalent of four megatons of carbon dioxide.

The design and performance of the building envelopes can have a considerable impact in reducing a building’s carbon footprint. As seen in Figure 1, space heating, cooling, and lighting account for 59% of energy use in residential buildings in BC, which is significant. Retrofitting the envelope and making maximum use of natural light can offer multiple benefits, which include improving the comfort of residents, reducing building contributions to climate change, and potentially lowering operating costs.



Figure 1, Breakdown of energy use in residential buildings in BC (2018); Source: Natural Resources Canada


Co-ops can take on bold actions in reducing the amount of energy used. Options include replacing old windows; improving wall insulation; replacing or sealing cracks in the cladding; and increasing insulation of attics, basements, or crawl spaces. (New construction projects offer even more opportunities. If you’re considering infill projects, you might want to look at passive house or net zero buildings.) Funding larger projects can be challenging, but co-ops have choices: saving through replacement reserve funds and borrowing money are the most reliable options, but government programs can also (sometimes) help. That assistance can focus on studies and planning or focus on construction itself. Having a long-term, asset management plan can really be a benefit, not least as part of a community conversation about co-op goals around physical spaces.

An energy audit by a professional can help identify energy conservation measures (ECM) to prioritize the interventions with the highest returns on investment, both from a greenhouse gas emissions reduction perspective and from a cost perspective. As suggested, co-ops can benefit from available government programs to obtain energy studies, and potential grants and rebates.

Programs targeting non-profit housing operators (co-ops and others)

CMHC, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and provincial utilities (BC Hydro and Fortis BC) offer eligible non-profit housing providers grants, low-interest loans, and rebates for investigative and feasibility studies. Sometimes they also offer help on implementing projects.

Programs targeting housing generally

There are other programs that are open to housing that are not specifically operated on a non-profit basis.