Renewable buildings

Our strategy is to target building energy—primarily in space heating and hot water use.

Buildings are the largest source of emissions in Vancouver - 59% of the city's total emissions in 2017.

The majority of non-renewable energy used in Vancouver buildings is used to produce heat—typically through burning natural gas. A zero-emission building emits no greenhouse gases form the energy it uses.

To have the largest carbon reduction impact, our strategy focuses mainly on energy used for space heating and hot water.


Imagine a city where homes and offices have clean and comfortable environments that are less expensive to heat and cool, and use only renewable sources of energy.   


Progress we've made so far

Reducing building energy needs by 2050

By reducing demand, increasing renewable energy use, and increasing renewable energy supply, we can meet Vancouver's building energy needs in 2050.

The Renewable City Action Plan contains a schedule of 27 actions related to buildings. The implementation timeframe for these actions are short-term (less than two years), medium-term (two to four years), long-term (over four years), or ongoing. 

  • Improvements to heat loss, energy efficiency, and carbon pollution requirements in the Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning, with improvements aligned with the steps in the Zero Emissions Buildings Plan.
  • Implement changes to the Vancouver Building Bylaw that will improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon pollution in 3-6 story buildings. 
  • Future improvements to the Vancouver Building Bylaw that will be aligned with the heat loss, energy efficiency, and carbon pollution targets in the Zero Emissions Building Plan. 
  • Add compliance pathways to the Vancouver Building Bylaw and Green Building Policy for Rezoning to recognize the BC Energy Step Code where it achieves equivalent outcomes. 
  • Changes to permitting guidelines to remove barriers to Passive House developments. 
  • Evaluate effectiveness of new program to procure case studies in Passive House development and plan next steps based on results. 
  • Work with provincial and federal governments and utilities to establish support for Passive House developments and the final step of the BC Energy Step Code through incentives and public sector leadership.
  • Work with other governments, utilities, and building owners and managers to develop targeted incentives to encourage deep energy and emissions retrofit projects.
  • Work with Metro Vancouver and other partners on multi-year energy advisor program to support deep energy and emission retrofits in stratas. 
  • Continue to research barriers to deep energy and emission retrofits and work with other governments and utilities to address these through new programs and changes to City policy. 
  • Streamline and prioritize the permitting process for renovations to encourage deep energy and emissions retrofit projects. 
  • Work with provincial and federal governments, and utilities to finance improvements to energy efficiency and reductions in carbon pollution in public housing projects. 
  • Work with the provincial government to establish province-wide energy performance benchmarking and reporting requirements for large commercial and residential buildings to help identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon pollution, and to monitor the effectiveness of policy changes. 
  • Continue to update the Vancouver Building Bylaw so that at the time of equipment replacement and renewal, energy efficient and low carbon options are required. These requirements will increase over time, in
    step with technology availability and cost-effectiveness. 
  • Launch and evaluate thermal imaging program as a tool to increase retrofit activity in single family homes. 
  • Evaluate the Heritage Energy Retrofit Grant program as a tool to increase retrofit activity in pre-1940’s homes and plan next steps based on results. 
  • Continue to expand the City-owned Neighbourhood Energy Utility to provide more new buildings with zero emissions heat and hot water. 
  • Remove mandatory neighbourhood energy connection requirements for developments in areas not served by a City-owned energy system, to enable low carbon thermal energy systems by other parties. 
  • Update the Policy for Secured Low Carbon Energy Systems to minimize the risk that new buildings connected to district energy systems won’t be connected to a low carbon energy source. 
  • Continue work enabling the conversion of the Creative Energy’s downtown district energy system to a low carbon source of energy. 
  • Continue work enabling the implementation of a low carbon energy supply for the River District neighbourhood. 
  • Evaluate the business case for expansion of the City-Owned Neighbourhood Energy Utility to the False Creek Flats, Lower Main Street, NE False Creek, and potentially other areas of the Downtown and Cambie corridor. 
  • Using the City-Owned Neighbourhood Energy Utility and other low carbon energy systems, maximize recovery of waste heat from sources such as sewers, commercial cooling and data centres.
  • Develop a Green Building Strategy with a 2050 time horizon that includes new and existing buildings and incorporates high performance envelopes, building scale renewable energy, and district scale renewable
    energy. 
  • Explore a program that would allow residents and businesses to purchase the renewable natural gas needed for the typical lifetime operation of relatively low use appliances, like decorative fireplaces, when those appliances are purchased. 
  • Launch the Zero Emissions Building and Construction Innovation Centre of Excellence and continue to work with the federal and provincial government to share knowledge and expertise, and secure additional
    endowment or operating funding.
  • Re-assess the opportunities for the City to support solar and other distributed generation technologies in light of ongoing improvements in their cost and performance, and an increase in our projections for new electricity demand.