Zero-Emission Building Retrofit Task Force Final Report

Buildings are responsible for more than a third of all carbon emissions within Burnaby city limits. Retrofitting existing buildings to produce zero emissions is one of Burnaby’s seven “Big Moves” to accelerate climate action and will be an essential part of achieving the City of Burnaby’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Zero-Emission Building Retrofit Task Force (Task Force) met from March to June 2022 with a mandate to make recommendations to Burnaby City Council for “quick starts” and long-term actions to shape Burnaby’s Zero-Emission Building Retrofit Strategy. This work was facilitated by Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in partnership with the City of Burnaby and Vancity as part of the Urban Resilient Futures Initiative.

The 16 Task Force members reflect a range of expertise, perspectives and sectors, including city council, finance, construction and trades, residential and commercial building owners and operators, tenants, individuals reflecting the needs of impacted residents and other relevant stakeholders.


With research support from City of Burnaby staff, Task Force members studied relevant background information to support the development of their vision and recommendations. Eliminating emissions from Burnaby’s 37,000 buildings by 2050 would require an average of 1,400 building retrofits annually over the next 27 years. Among the existing building stock, single-family houses, two-family houses and townhouses in Burnaby are responsible for 38 per cent of total building emissions, while retail and office buildings account for 36 per cent of building emissions. Low-rise and high-rise multi-family buildings are responsible for 10 per cent of building emissions while accounting for 55 per cent of the total units in Burnaby.

Retrofitting existing buildings can include measures for increased energy efficiency and fuel switching to zero-emission energy sources. Barriers to retrofits can include a lack of awareness that retrofits are required, a sense of overwhelming complexity about the retrofit process, the existence of upfront costs to the homeowner or occupant before they even know if they can proceed, a lack of qualified people to carry out retrofit work and challenges meeting requirements to access existing rebate programs.

Retrofits can also protect people and buildings against extreme weather events such as prolonged heat, floods and wildfires, and can result in improved indoor air quality through fuel switching from natural gas combustion to electric heating, cooling and cooking. Vulnerability to climate change hazards increases for people with existing health issues, seniors (65+), youth and children, people with disabilities and people who are pregnant. People with less adaptive capacity or less ability to access resources, networks or infrastructure in the face of climate shocks or stressors include (but are not limited to) those who are on a lower or fixed income, have limited physical mobility or reside in a difficult physical environment.


Prior to developing its recommendations, the Task Force outlined its vision for a low-carbon and energy-efficient future. This included emission reductions at the speed and scale necessary for Burnaby to reach its targets through measures to adopt clean energy sources, increase energy efficiency and support gentle densification. The Task Force vision also calls for centring reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, increasing resilience to climate impacts such as heat waves and wildfire smoke, advancing equity for those most vulnerable to climate impacts as well as for lower-income residents and supporting co-benefits for the community. To catalyze action, the Task Force emphasized efforts to increase communications, tailor approaches to different building contexts, expand the retrofit workforce, reduce complexity, collaborate across governments and measure progress over time.

In total, the Task Force produced eight high-priority recommendations and 12 regular-priority recommendations to inform Burnaby’s Zero-Emission Building Retrofit Strategy.

Read the report to learn more

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