Letter to the Editor: Smart Buildings, Smart Technology

Buildings are the potential heroes of climate emissions with the help of one sidekick: carbon tracking and cleantech

Imagine a Canada where every new building is completely carbon neutral, and our impact on the climate is cut by 25 per cent. The Canadian government aims to be carbon neutral by 2025, but it is unlikely the plan to get us there is realistic.

An earlier letter to the editor stated that Canada’s energy efficient buildings can quickly and effectively address a sizeable proportion of our carbon emission issues—and I couldn’t agree more.

Photo courtesy of Parity

At the moment, many industry experts are advocating for deep retrofitting. And while Canadian buildings and organizations like the Green Building Council and LEED have successfully certified retrofits nationally, the time constraints and emissions associated with green construction remain challenges to the speed of progress.

As the cofounder of a cleantech company, I’m in favour of deep retrofits, but believe that they aren’t the sole answer to the issue of building carbon emissions. Another important tool is compact, efficient homegrown technologies, such as artificial intelligence-based energy management platforms (EMP) that can be installed relatively easily and that can act immediately in reducing energy consumption from commercial and residential buildings.

Photo courtesy of Parity

EMPs—like those developed by, Parity—attach to existing HVAC equipment in buildings, and collect data about a building’s energy use. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence “learns” about the building, helping to identify and address opportunities for improved efficiency. Even dated boiler rooms and equipment can typically accommodate these smart systems.

During an initial assessment, building experts identify what energy capacity a property currently has, where inefficiencies exist and, with the correct software implementation, what opportunities there are for a property to realize energy and carbon savings in the future.

Real, monumental change in our carbon reduction effort will rely on a collaborative strategy where our governments (both federal and provincial) implement benchmarking requirements, incentivize deep retrofits, and make installations like EMPs mandatory.

Rendering courtesy of Parity

Benchmarking is particularly critical. We need to both do the work and track its success. Carbon data tracking and reporting – for both commercial and residential buildings – needs to be a mandatory expectation of property management across the country.

In July 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Energy rolled out the Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking initiative. Currently, Ontario is the only province in Canada that mandates energy benchmarking. Other provinces report on a purely voluntary basis. Without a Canada-wide effort to better track and manage energy output, we are undermining our own successes.

Once government programs are in place, residential and commercial properties who neglect to upgrade their buildings and fail to report their energy usage may be penalized for wasteful energy output.

In short, we can live to see a Canada where our buildings are carbon neutral and where we meet our Paris Agreement Climate goals. It’s not as far-fetched as we think—in a perfect world we will see it done by 2025. But until then, we need diversify our climate action plan and work together to adopt immediate tactics that bring us closer to our climate goals.