Heritage designated buildings must balance the often competing priorities of heritage conservation and energy efficiency. The City of Victoria looked to RDH for help in developing an energy retrofit strategy for heritage buildings.
The renewal of heritage buildings is a priority for many local governments and provincial/state agencies as a means of revitalizing core city neighbourhoods, conserving character defining elements of landmark buildings and improving their durability and seismic resilience. In parallel, efforts are being made to improve the energy efficiency of buildings to improve building energy affordability and lower greenhouse gas emissions. There is a perception that energy efficiency and heritage conservation are incompatible objectives, centred largely around the replacement of windows. As such, designated heritage buildings are often exempted from building energy codes and product standards (e.g., BC Energy Efficiency Act).
RDH was hired by the City of Victoria to determine the potential for facilitating energy efficiency upgrades to existing, heritage designated buildings. The objective of the work was to determine which “deep energy retrofits” were conducive to heritage rehabilitations and/or seismic upgrades occurring through the City’s existing heritage renewal incentive programs (Tax Incentive Program and Building Incentive Program), available to buildings in the Downtown Core Area. Proposed amendments to the program will encourage building owners to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings at a time when substantial rehabilitation and upgrades are occurring.
RDH conducted building energy benchmarking for 6 buildings that participated in the incentive program for seismic upgrades. Following that, RDH developed calibrated energy models for three of the buildings, including office, rental and strata housing. The modelling results show the energy impact of efficiency measures that conserve character defining elements. RDH conducted a review of municipal and provincial policy and incentive measures and utility demand-side management programs to establish recommendations to the City of Victoria.
The project was completed in 2014, and aims to educate, engage, and encourage building owners and developers about energy efficiency retrofit opportunities that are compatible with heritage preservation principles.
Our findings demonstrated that gains in energy efficiency can be made from cost-effective upgrades to the enclosure, mechanical, and electrical systems without infringing upon heritage features. The results reinforce that energy retrofits of heritage buildings are appropriate at the time of seismic upgrades and rehabilitation. These retrofits also provide an opportunity for greater comfort and livability, a reduction in operating costs, and the extension of the life and durability of these important buildings.