High Performance Buildings: Energy-saving retrofit technologies for commercial and institutional buildings

Each year, owners of Canada’s institutional and commercial buildings invest billions of dollars in technologies which aim to reduce their annual energy bills. With the cost of energy expected to double in the next decade, the need for validated and cost-effective energy-saving technologies will continue to increase.

Historically, building owners approached lowering energy costs primarily by reducing energy consumption. Even though reducing consumption through energy efficiency remains a key component for owners, the emergence of the Smart Grid has created an important opportunity for industry to meet building owners’ needs through demand-responsive technologies. Today, advances in sensor and automation technologies as well as in materials science offer building material and control manufacturers opportunities to further lower consumption.

With sensing and automation, data mining, and energy-efficient dynamic building materials and envelopes, manufacturers and consultants are pursuing the market demand for buildings that generate more energy than they consume. And where permitted, manufacturers could support building owners to sell this excess energy to the Smart Grid, flipping building energy from a source of cost to a source of revenue. Equally important is the opportunity for Canadian firms on the building energy value chain to provide energy retrofit products in a rapidly growing market.

Transforming to high performance buildings

In response to market demand for high-performance energy-efficient buildings, NRC has launched new industry-led research that will enable Canadian firms to commercialize and deploy validated energy retrofit products and services. The solutions will span the development and validation of new products and systems, as well as monitoring in laboratories, large-scale laboratory environments and real buildings. NRC will collaborate with industry clients on strategic projects and technical services in three areas:

  • Dynamic Building Envelope exploits and integrates advances in materials science and heat, air and ventilation control with building envelope engineering to support the development and improvement of existing technologies to lower heating and cooling demands and collect renewable energy. Anticipated new and improved technologies include:
    • vacuum and advanced insulation for wall and roofing systems;
    • façade-engineered curtain walls with sensors, high-thermal resistance and dynamic solar load control; and
    • advanced roofing systems with ultra-high thermal resistance and integrated photovoltaic material.
  • Intelligent Building Environmental Control responds to industry seeking more effective and reliable building control technologies for lower consumption of lighting, ventilation and internal loads (such as computers) as well as for improved quality and healthy office environments. Anticipated technologies and solutions include:
    • LED-based indoor lighting controls, including market acceptance tools;
    • wireless-based platform for environmental control systems; and
    • HVAC with small diameter delivery system.
  • Interactive Platforms Connecting Building Energy Systems and the Smart Grid will provide industry with tools that continuously assess, predict, adjust and control the performance of building energy systems automatically. This will assist building owners in realizing operational efficiencies and cost savings. Anticipated technologies include:
    • geographic information-based fault detection of building energy systems;
    • whole building energy management with Smart Grid interface; and
    • building-level electrochemical storage.

In addition to product development and evaluation, we will collaborate with industry on full-scale, real-life demonstration projects. The goal is to enable industry to commercialize and deploy the validated technologies needed by building owners to significantly reduce their energy consumption each year, and even convert their buildings into a source of revenue.


Contact Trevor Nightingale at or 613-993-0102.