Better Buildings Ottawa

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The City of Ottawa is developing a Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy to accelerate the retrofits of existing industrial, commercial, institutional, and multi-unit buildings. This strategy is one of 20 priority projects identified in Energy Evolution to meet Council’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Existing buildings are the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ottawa. In 2019, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings contributed to 22 per cent of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions are from space heating.

Better Buildings Ottawa focuses on reducing heating demand and fuel switching to maximise the carbon and financial returns. It proposes five key components to accelerate the uptake of retrofits, while maximizing potential co-benefits and minimizing potential harms to owners and tenants:

  • Benchmarking and auditing
  • Marketing, education and training
  • Coordinating and supporting accelerated retrofits
  • Energy retrofit standards and other regulations
  • Senior government engagement

The five key components are summarized below. If you would like a copy of the draft Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy please email betterbuildings@ottawa.ca.


Have your say

We are seeking input on the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy. Please let us know your comments by completing the survey by September 12, 2021. Your feedback will help us finalize the details of the Strategy.

We want to hear from the following sectors as they relate to industrial, commercial, institutional, or multi-unit residential buildings:

  • Building owners
  • Property managers
  • Building occupants
  • Service providers


Key components of the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy

Benchmarking and auditing

Benchmarking programs mandate owners of buildings over a certain size to measure and publicly report their performance data such as energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that benchmarking programs can lead to savings of two to three per cent per year. Benchmarking programs set baselines, diagnose performance, improve energy literacy and provide indicators for measures of success.

Ontario’s Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) initiative requires buildings 100,000 square feet and larger to report their energy and water usage annually.

The City is considering a benchmarking and auditing program for buildings 20,000 square feet and larger. Participants would be asked to publicly benchmark their energy and water consumption annually through Canada Green Building Council’s Disclosure Challenge. In exchange, participants will receive subsidized thermal energy audits, energy scorecards, and Energy Star certification and tailored information sessions on energy and emission reduction opportunities. The program would be free to join. We hope to launch this program in October. Participants will be eligible for support once they have disclosed their energy and water consumption

Marketing, education, and training

To help the building sector overcome barriers such as lack of knowledge, time, and motivation to undertake retrofits, the following marketing, education, and training programs will be developed:

  • A retrofit portal that includes energy performance comparisons to similar buildings, information on pathways to meet energy performance thresholds and links to incentive programs
  • A certification and verification process for accessing City programs that tightens overtime and excludes poor performers
  • Workshops, training programs and information packages on retrofits for different building types
  • A registry of experienced renovation contractors
  • A retrofit support service to provide advice on programs, requirements, rebates, performance issues and connect building owners to appropriate service providers

Economic tools and coordination

To help the building sector overcome financial barriers to retrofits the following will be considered:

  • Providing financing options for deep energy retrofits that stay with the property
  • Reducing capital costs through the coordination of bulk retrofits and supply chain supports
  • Launching a Community Improvement Plan to offer incentives tied to carbon reductions
  • Offer subsidisation of relocation costs for tenants during major retrofit activities

Regulating disclosure, energy audits, and emissions performance

The City will explore options to mandate emissions performance for all buildings over a certain size such as:

  • Requiring buildings to benchmark and disclose their energy and emissions annually
  • Requiring American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Level II energy audits and/or recommissioning every five years to ensure building owners are aware of energy and emission reduction opportunities as well as embodied carbon, resiliency and health implications
  • Requiring buildings meet emissions performance standards that become more stringent over time

Senior government engagement

While the City of Ottawa has many opportunities to directly support and require the decarbonization of existing buildings, there are a number of market signals and responsibilities that lie outside its control. The City can leverage its position as the capital of Canada and through collaboration with other municipalities, to engage with other levels of government and accelerate our collective ambition.


Stay informed

If you would like to receive updates on the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy and other climate change news subscribe to the climate change e-newsletter.

The City of Ottawa is developing a Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy to accelerate the retrofits of existing industrial, commercial, institutional, and multi-unit buildings. This strategy is one of 20 priority projects identified in Energy Evolution to meet Council’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Existing buildings are the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ottawa. In 2019, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings contributed to 22 per cent of Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions are from space heating.

Better Buildings Ottawa focuses on reducing heating demand and fuel switching to maximise the carbon and financial returns. It proposes five key components to accelerate the uptake of retrofits, while maximizing potential co-benefits and minimizing potential harms to owners and tenants:

  • Benchmarking and auditing
  • Marketing, education and training
  • Coordinating and supporting accelerated retrofits
  • Energy retrofit standards and other regulations
  • Senior government engagement

The five key components are summarized below. If you would like a copy of the draft Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy please email betterbuildings@ottawa.ca.


Have your say

We are seeking input on the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy. Please let us know your comments by completing the survey by September 12, 2021. Your feedback will help us finalize the details of the Strategy.

We want to hear from the following sectors as they relate to industrial, commercial, institutional, or multi-unit residential buildings:

  • Building owners
  • Property managers
  • Building occupants
  • Service providers


Key components of the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy

Benchmarking and auditing

Benchmarking programs mandate owners of buildings over a certain size to measure and publicly report their performance data such as energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that benchmarking programs can lead to savings of two to three per cent per year. Benchmarking programs set baselines, diagnose performance, improve energy literacy and provide indicators for measures of success.

Ontario’s Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) initiative requires buildings 100,000 square feet and larger to report their energy and water usage annually.

The City is considering a benchmarking and auditing program for buildings 20,000 square feet and larger. Participants would be asked to publicly benchmark their energy and water consumption annually through Canada Green Building Council’s Disclosure Challenge. In exchange, participants will receive subsidized thermal energy audits, energy scorecards, and Energy Star certification and tailored information sessions on energy and emission reduction opportunities. The program would be free to join. We hope to launch this program in October. Participants will be eligible for support once they have disclosed their energy and water consumption

Marketing, education, and training

To help the building sector overcome barriers such as lack of knowledge, time, and motivation to undertake retrofits, the following marketing, education, and training programs will be developed:

  • A retrofit portal that includes energy performance comparisons to similar buildings, information on pathways to meet energy performance thresholds and links to incentive programs
  • A certification and verification process for accessing City programs that tightens overtime and excludes poor performers
  • Workshops, training programs and information packages on retrofits for different building types
  • A registry of experienced renovation contractors
  • A retrofit support service to provide advice on programs, requirements, rebates, performance issues and connect building owners to appropriate service providers

Economic tools and coordination

To help the building sector overcome financial barriers to retrofits the following will be considered:

  • Providing financing options for deep energy retrofits that stay with the property
  • Reducing capital costs through the coordination of bulk retrofits and supply chain supports
  • Launching a Community Improvement Plan to offer incentives tied to carbon reductions
  • Offer subsidisation of relocation costs for tenants during major retrofit activities

Regulating disclosure, energy audits, and emissions performance

The City will explore options to mandate emissions performance for all buildings over a certain size such as:

  • Requiring buildings to benchmark and disclose their energy and emissions annually
  • Requiring American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Level II energy audits and/or recommissioning every five years to ensure building owners are aware of energy and emission reduction opportunities as well as embodied carbon, resiliency and health implications
  • Requiring buildings meet emissions performance standards that become more stringent over time

Senior government engagement

While the City of Ottawa has many opportunities to directly support and require the decarbonization of existing buildings, there are a number of market signals and responsibilities that lie outside its control. The City can leverage its position as the capital of Canada and through collaboration with other municipalities, to engage with other levels of government and accelerate our collective ambition.


Stay informed

If you would like to receive updates on the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy and other climate change news subscribe to the climate change e-newsletter.

  • We want to hear from you! Complete the survey to let us know your thoughts on the key components of the Better Buildings Ottawa Strategy. The survey will be open until September 12, 2021.

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Page last updated: 01 September 2021, 11:01