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UVic-based initiative building database on energy efficiency retrofit best practices

ReBuild to guide how to make emissions-reducing retrofits in affordable way
University of Victoria’s Ralph Evins (left), Haris Shamsi, Rajeev Kotha and Mahsa Torabi are part of team called ReBuild, which is working on a database of building retrofit best practices aimed at making them more energy efficient, low carbon and resilient to climate change. (Photo courtesy of Armando Tura/University of Victoria)

A University of Victoria partnership wants to maximize the potential of retrofitting existing buildings so they’re more energy efficient, low carbon and resilient to climate change.

Governments have to address the formidable challenge of such retrofits if they want to meet their ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, said UVic civil engineering associate professor and researcher Ralph Evins.

“The idea that you can go into an existing building and replace key components to make it more energy-efficient – well, we’re only starting to get a handle on just how complex that problem is,” Evins said in a release.

“The energy retrofitting industry for older buildings doesn’t exist on anything like the scale we need, so now we’re scrambling to find solutions to help people to do it more cheaply.”

The scenario helped lead to the UVic-based ReBuild Initiative, a partnership of 16 international organizations that will share data on what specific retrofit option is best and most affordable for a particular building type. The information will then inform businesses, governments and other groups, big and small, on their policies and actions.

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Evins will lead a team of faculty, postdoc and graduate students who will look to develop data-driven solutions. An example of this would be ReBuild collecting massive amounts of information – temperature, humidity, electricity use – on a building and analyzing that data to learn how to improve operations and identify the best, most cost-effective retrofit methods. Those best practices would then be shared with groups operating similar buildings.

“With this project, UVic will be a centre for new ways of thinking about retrofitting existing buildings, new methods to achieve emission targets – in B.C., across Canada and internationally,” Evins said.

During ReBuild’s planning stage, he said, every partner he contacted was eager to be part of the centralized knowledge hub.

“Energy retrofitting existing buildings is something everyone wants to do, everyone will eventually have to do, but no one really knows how to do on a larger, cost-effective scale,” Evins said. “The political will is there to make this happen and there’s no doubt anymore that we need to solve this challenge.”

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