New C$6 million chair in architecture to develop turnkey solutions for mass climate renovation of buildings

As the impact of climate change intensifies and accelerates, there is an increasing urgency to radically transform areas that can be significantly decarbonized. Buildings are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), yet the vast majority of Canada’s existing building stock was built without an energy code in place. Developing a systematic and scalable approach to retrofitting existing buildings and communities to reduce their GHG emissions will help Canada meet its carbon reduction goals.

To address this problem, McGill announced the creation of a Chair in Architecture, Energy and the Environment at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, supported by funding and in-kind contributions totaling more than 6 million Canadian dollars. The chair will be held by Associate Professor Michael Jemtrud and is funded by NSERC’s Alliance program – the largest grant awarded in Quebec – with main support from Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. .

“More than an opportunity to urgently reduce emissions”

“Sustainability and climate change are defining issues of our time,” said Benoit Boulet, Associate Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “The ambitious program 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 holistic attempt to transform physical, social and economic regimes for the benefit of all by adapting to the accelerating consequences of climate change by building more resilient communities.”

“Stimulate the Quebec market and the development of this economic sector”

“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”, declared Jean Matte, senior director of the ‘Hydro-Research Institute of Quebec. “Hydro-Quebec is committed to decarbonizing Quebec and supporting this initiative will not only create synergies within the industry, but will also provide the means to promote responsible energy use.

The new chair has organized a large and diverse interdisciplinary team of researchers, public and private sector partners that will enable industry to realistically implement effective energy efficiency measures to reduce emissions from existing building stock. The partners are: Hydro Québec, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, 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, the carbon and energy embodied in the construction of a building becomes the primary concern. By not building new – thus avoiding significant land use change, GHG emissions and diverting huge waste of demolition materials from landfills – renovation and retrofitting strategies are an inherently sustainable approach.

Set of digital tools as part of a scalable turnkey solution for mass renovation

Building energy retrofits are known to be among the most effective means available to reduce operational emissions, but the sheer scale of the task has been a significant hurdle. The program plans to leverage the strengths of architecture, engineering, IT, planning and management to develop a set of digital tools – the ReCONstruct platform – and to implement research and development efforts in a series of pilot projects that will inform research. The research will become the basis for a scalable turnkey solution that reconfigures conventional procurement, financing and legislative structures as well as design, manufacturing and construction workflows for the mass renovation of the existing building stock of the Canada.

In addition to being named to the new chair, Professor Jemtrud is a member of the new DeCarbonizing ARchitecture and Buildings research group with fellow McGill architects Salmaan Craig, Naomi Keena, Philip Tidwell and Nik Luka. Additionally, he is co-principal investigator with Professor Craig on the $19.2 million CFI-funded Building Architecture Research Node research facility currently under design and whose implementation in service is scheduled for the first half of 2024.

About Ethel Nester

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