McGill announces chair in architecture to develop solutions for mass building climate retrofits

The $6M position will be held by Associate Professor Michael Jemtrud.

McGill University announced the establishment of a Chair in Architecture, Energy, and Environment in the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, to develop turn-key solutions for mass building climate retrofits.

Supported by funding and in-kind contributions that total over C$6 million, the Chair will be held by Associate Professor Michael Jemtrud, and is funded by the NSERC Alliance program – the largest grant awarded in Quebec – with primary support from Hydro-Québec, and the Quebec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

“Sustainability and climate change are defining issues of our times,” said Benoit Boulet, Associate Vice-Principal, Research & Innovation. “The ambitious agenda of this chair demonstrates McGill’s commitment to finding and implementing solutions to these problems.”

“This chair is more than an opportunity to urgently reduce emissions,” said Professor Michael Jemtrud. “It is a wholistic attempt to transform physical, social, and economic regimes for the benefit of all in adapting to the accelerating consequences of climate change by building more resilient communities.”

The new chair has organized a broad and diverse interdisciplinary team of researchers, public and private sector partners including: Hydro Quebec, Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, Natural Resources Canada, Société d’habitation du Québec, RG Solution, Minotair, 475 High Performance Building Supply, If Then Architecture, Carleton University, University of Toronto.

As operational energy efficiency in buildings continues to approach net-zero, embodied carbon and energy in the construction of a building becomes the primary concern, says the university. “By not building anew—thus avoiding significant land use change GHG emissions and diverting enormous demolition material waste from landfills—renovation and retrofit strategies are an inherently sustainable approach.”

The program plans to leverage strengths in architecture, engineering, computer science, planning, and management to develop a digital tool set – the ReCONstruct platform – and to implement the research and development efforts in a series of pilot projects that will inform the research.

The research will become the basis for a scalable turn-key solution that reconfigures conventional procurement, finance, and legislative structures as well as design, manufacture, and construction workflows for mass retrofitting Canada’s existing building stock.

“This collaboration will make it possible to adapt the concept to the Quebec market and to stimulate the development of this economic sector which notably involves engineers, architects, real estate developers, contractors and equipment manufacturers,” said Jean Matte, Senior Director of the Hydro-Québec Research Institute. “Hydro-Québec is committed to decarbonizing Quebec and supporting this initiative will not only create synergies within the industry but also provide the means to promote responsible energy use.”

In addition to being named to the new Chair, Professor Jemtrud is a member of the newly formed DeCarbonizing ARchitecture and Buildings Research Group along with McGill architecture colleagues Salmaan Craig, Naomi Keena, Philip Tidwell, and Nik Luka.  Additionally, he is co-PI with Prof. Craig on the $19.2 million CFI-funded “Building Architecture Research Node” research facility currently being designed and planned to be operational in the first half of 2024.