Structures including residences, places of business, schools, hospitals and other public

GHG emissions

92Mt CO2e (2018); 13% of of total national emissions
47 Mt CO2e homes; 45Mt CO2e commercial and institutional buildings

Options for decarbonization

Replace fossil end uses (principally gas for heating); increase energy efficiency of all buildings (new and old); reduce embodied emissions in building requirements.

Stage of transition

Design, construction and retrofitting to net-zero buildings: emergence stage. Individual technologies such as enhanced heat pumps: entering diffusion.

Current obstacles

Cheap price of natural gas; up-front capital costs for net zero construction or renovation; shortage of trained workforce; insufficient incentives and coordinated standards to drive innovation; conservative industry structure and practices.

Other systemic issues

Affordability of housing; lack of public housing; electricity options for remote communities; construction related waste; developer dominated urban planning, lack of real estate industry interest in energy performance and energy performance disclosure.

Opportunities and concerns

Consumers: reductions of fuel costs and utility bills over the long run; opportunity to improve indoor air quality and general comfort.

Economic development: employment opportunity in low-carbon retrofit and construction; business opportunities in net zero equipment (e.g., heat pumps); green real estate market; export opportunities for low-carbon building materials; possible build-out of hydrogen economy.

Priorities for action

Adoption of progressively more stringent codes for new builds, and regulatory standards to drive improvement in existing buildings; use public procurement to support sector transformation; financial vehicles to mobilize private capital and organize pilots to scale up deep retrofits; mandatory building/energy emissions labelling; support R&D for net zero building technologies adapted to Canada’s climate (eg: cold climate heat pumps); train Canada’s labor force for low carbon building design, construction, retrofit and maintenance.

Longer-term issues

Affordable net-zero housing; efficiencies through district heating

Indicators of progress

Share of electricity in building’s energy consumption; annual retrofit rate; transparency around embodied carbon in building materials.

Assessement table: Buildings


Natural gas

Renewable NG (biogas)

Synthetic NG (power from decarbonized sources, carbon from biomass or air capture)


Base board or electric furnace

Air and ground source heat pumps


Piped as a natural gas replacement

Building generated power

PV panels

Building integrated PV

Micro wind turbines

Energy Efficiency

Net-zero design (building shells and equipment)

Retrofitting (building shells and equipment)

Shared energy solutions

District energy systems

Inter building energy transfers