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 Challenge

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).

The Project

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 Results

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.

Learn more about sustainability + energy retrofits

Our Leaders

Marcus Dell, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Senior Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Marcus is a professional engineer who specializes in practical solutions to building enclosure problems. He combines his academic training with over 20 years of work experience to offer all-around knowledge of the application of building science principles to buildings around North America. His focus at RDH is on existing buildings and repair, renewal, and rehabilitation projects.  In particular, he has advanced expertise in roof design and assemblies. He serves as a Director with RCI Inc, Western Canada Chapter and has published many papers and conducted research on a variety of roofing topics.

Paul Kernan, Architect AIBC, LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Paul is a registered architect with a wide range of working experience in North America and Europe. For the last 15 years, Paul has specialized in building enclosure design and construction. Paul leads the building enclosure Repair, Renewal, + Rehabilitation (3R) service area at RDH.

Michael Aoki-Kramer, B.A., J.D., LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Michael leads building enclosure projects for both new construction and rehabilitation. Michael’s experience as well as his knowledge of Washington State and Seattle Building, Mechanical, and Energy Codes are an asset to any project. He co-manages RDH’s Seattle office.

Sarah Gray, M.Sc., P.Eng., CAHP

Principal, Building Science Specialist

Sarah Gray brings her North American and international expertise to RDH’s Toronto office. Her work includes heritage rehabilitation, existing building condition assessment, and new construction enclosure consulting. Sarah previously served as a Board Member with the Canadian Association of Heritage Preservation (CAHP) and is currently a volunteer for the Association of Preservation Technology. With over 18 years’ experience in the building science industry, Sarah has worked on many historic buildings, including terra cotta rehabilitation at the 1 King West Hotel and Condo in Toronto, and the brick and sandstone repairs at Toronto’s Confederation Life Building, which won a Craftsmanship Award from CAHP. Recent work includes collaborating with RDH Building Science Labs on the testing and assessment of masonry buildings to receive interior insulation retrofits.

Chris Schumacher, M.A.Sc.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Chris Schumacher is recognized as an expert in the field of building monitoring, as well as enclosure and building systems testing. He has led the design, installation and analysis of monitoring systems for a variety of research programs and demonstration projects, both in the lab and in field locations around the globe. Chris’ formal education in architecture and engineering is balanced by almost two decades of experience in design, computer simulation, physical testing, and forensic investigation. Chris was the lead consultant on the development of the Historic Masonry Building Retrofit Guidelines for the US Military Academy and has consulted on several historic buildings including the Halifax Armoury Building in Halifax, NS as well as the Google Building in New York NY (in collaboration with BSC).

Dave Young, P.E.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Dave specializes in building enclosure consulting for both new and existing construction. His experience and expertise in historic building enclosures spans close to 30 years and includes work on the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa and the University of British Columbia Main Library.

One of Dave’s focus areas is to make historic buildings better by incorporating new enclosure technologies without changing the original aesthetics.  This includes implementing moisture control, thermal improvements, and air tightness strategies, while reinstating original materials. This approach was used on the 100 year old Oregon College of Oriental Medicine building in Portland, where corroded steel lintels above the windows were removed. The steel lintels were cleaned and protected, then reinstalled to create a new rainscreen cavity behind the brick veneer over the windows. The 3-wythe mass masonry wall above the lintels remained intact.