AI tools will play a pivotal role in achieving net-zero buildings by 2050. Buildings are a significant contributor to carbon emissions (about 18% of emissions in Canada). Achieving net-zero building stock is an ambitious but crucial goal in the fight against climate change. To make this happen, we need rapid identification of retrofit opportunities, transparent communication with homeowners, and the removal of both knowledge and financial barriers. Now is the time to use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to address these challenges in the form of AI home energy assessments.
Energy efficiency programs (like offering retrofit rebates and other incentives) are the main tool to drive retrofit action among homeowners. If we continue to use only this approach to programs, as we have for the past 20 years, we are on a 143-year trajectory to hit building upgrade targets.
About 10% of the building stock has been assessed thus far, so we are only engaging that portion of the homeowner population with personalized low-carbon retrofit recommendations. Engaging the remaining 90% of homeowners in climate action presents a tremendous challenge.
AI can be leveraged to conduct no-touch mass market home energy assessments quickly and accurately. This disruptive approach provides many benefits over the traditional approach to assessing homes, deploying home efficiency programs, and engaging homeowners.
There are several barriers slowing homeowners from performing net-zero retrofits. The top two are knowledge and financial capital.
Mobilizing homeowners for retrofits is a challenging endeavor. Currently, building assessments are primarily used as qualifiers for rebates and often miss a critical opportunity to engage homeowners effectively. Homeowners don’t necessarily want a building assessment; they want a more cost-effective, comfortable home with a lower impact on the environment. Using AI to create a low-carbon plan for every building is a fast and comparatively affordable way to start a conversation with more homeowners and refer them to professionals and resources.
Building retrofits represent one of the most significant environmental and economic opportunities of our generation. The benefits of retrofitting extend beyond energy efficiency, and include increased comfort, climate resilience, cost-effectiveness, and reduced environmental impact. Recognizing these multi-faceted benefits is essential.
Here are four key ways that AI home energy assessments can tackle the capital barrier for retrofitting:
Inclusive home energy efficiency programs ensure that all homeowners can participate, regardless of their circumstances. Traditional barriers, such as complexity and cost, have excluded certain homeowners. Virtual energy assessments are accessible to everyone with internet or telephone access, regardless of location or financial situation.
AI can democratize retrofit programs by streamlining processes and reducing expenses. This inclusivity can open the door to a broader range of participants and maximize the impact of retrofit initiatives.
Mass personalization in building retrofits means tailoring retrofit plans to suit the unique characteristics of each building. An alternative approach is to cluster buildings with similar characters (called archetypal analysis). AI tools have the capability to efficiently analyze building data and generate unique retrofit plans.
For instance, AI can determine the most effective insulation for a specific structure or suggest heating and cooling upgrades tailored to a building’s needs. This level of personalization can significantly enhance retrofit effectiveness.
Here are four ways that AI home energy assessments can personalize retrofit recommendations en masse:
The urgency of scaling up retrofit efforts to meet climate targets cannot be overstated. Traditional assessment methods are often slow and cumbersome, making it challenging to prioritize buildings for retrofit. AI offers a solution by enabling rapid assessments across an entire region and allows for prioritization based on factors such as energy consumption, emissions, and the condition of the building. Real-world statistics and case studies illustrate how AI can accelerate retrofit projects, bringing us closer to our climate goals.
Building retrofit programs target various outcomes, including improved energy efficiency and reduced emissions. AI tools can monitor and analyze program outcomes in real-time, providing valuable insights for program optimization. By showcasing successful AI-assisted programs, we will have demonstrated the potential of AI to drive significant improvements in retrofit outcomes. Contact us to learn about outcomes from ongoing projects.
The time is now for integrating AI tools into building retrofit programs and projects. AI can help overcome knowledge and capital barriers, facilitate mass personalization, promote inclusivity, expedite scaling efforts, and optimize program outcomes. As we strive for a more sustainable future, it is essential for stakeholders to embrace AI-driven solutions and work collectively to tackle building retrofits. Together, we can create a built environment that is not only energy-efficient but also environmentally responsible.
We encourage readers to explore AI–driven solutions for building retrofits and stay informed about the latest advancements in this field. By adopting AI tools and supporting inclusive, scalable retrofit programs, we can make substantial progress towards a net-zero building stock and a more sustainable future for all.
Download our whitepaper “Scaling Net-Zero Retrofits” to learn how we use machine learning to generate low-carbon plans that estimate energy use and carbon emissions and provide personalized retrofit recommendations.