Decarbonization and the Path to a Net-Zero Future

Operational energy use for buildings accounts for roughly 30% of global carbon emissions. Today, many Ontario institutions and building owners are targeting net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. This will require a massive effort to decarbonize not only our new facility designs, but also our existing institutional building stock. Chorley + Bisset has specific expertise in both renewal of mechanical and electrical infrastructure, and design of high performing new buildings. We are a natural choice to help you determine the path forward to decarbonize your building, and we are a natural choice to help you implement your decarbonization plan.

We believe decarbonization for most existing buildings will involve a stepwise process to replace use of natural gas for space heating and domestic hot water heating, with energy efficient, low temperature, decarbonized heat pump systems. The first step in the process is usually to reduce loads through improved system and envelope performance, energy recovery and variable speed demand controlled systems. The next step is to retrofit building distribution systems and source energy plants. Energy plant retrofit can be performed in stages, so that the highest level of emissions reduction can be achieved for the lowest initial cost, with incremental performance improvements implemented over time as energy costs rise. Technology is available today to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and drastically reduce carbon emissions, for any building application.

We are incorporating plans and provisions for future decarbonization into nearly all of our building projects today. We have many exciting decarbonization projects completed or currently under construction, including complex facilities aspiring to unique, world class performance. We are working with numerous institutions to help them plan the conversion of their systems and buildings, and to ensure the work they do today is in alignment with their decarbonization plans for the future.

Below is a sampling of our recent decarbonization projects. We have many more in progress, ranging from small to very large projects. Contact us today – we’d be pleased to help you shine light on the best path forward for your building.


Schmeichel Building for Entrepreneurship & Innovation - Western University

This project is a new, $44 million, 9,300m2 interdisciplinary building. This will be Western’s first net-zero facility and it features a 100% electric kitchen. The building also includes a 500-person event hall, seminar rooms, business incubator, maker space, and collaboration spaces. The building’s primary source of heating and cooling is a heat pump chiller connected to a geothermal borefield below the building. The heating and cooling systems include a chilled water loop and low temperature heating loop with compartmental air handling units located throughout the building. The central energy recovery DOAS unit is a variable volume system with control dampers to dynamically control the supply of ventilation air to the occupied areas of the building. Other features include LED lighting and variable speed and demand responsive controls for all systems. This project is targeting LEED Platinum and will be completed in 2024.

Prime Consultant: Perkins & Will and Cornerstone Architecture


Robert Bateman High School Renovations - City of Burlington

This $55 million project will see the former Robert Bateman High School in Burlington renovated and repurposed as a new 200,000 ft2 community centre and tenant facility, operated by the City of Burlington. The building includes a Brock University satellite campus, the Burlington Public Library, community use spaces including four gymnasia, the Halton District School Board, and others. Along with tenant fitup work, this first phase of the building renovation included entirely new, decarbonized mechanical and electrical systems throughout, to support the building’s net zero carbon emissions goals. A new heat recovery chiller plant and low temperature heating water system was installed, which will heat and cool the building using source energy from a geothermal borefield. Other features include LED lighting, variable speed and demand responsive controls for all systems, building envelope upgrades and highly energy efficient systems. Construction is expected to be completed in 2025.

Prime Consultant: architects Tillmann Ruth Robinson


Thames Hall Modernization - Western University

This was a $25 million, 8,345 m2 renovation and 2,030 m2 addition to one of Western’s core campus buildings. The building includes administration and faculty offices, classrooms, research labs for the School of Kinesiology, and a new Health and Wellness Centre. The project included complete replacement of all existing heating and cooling equipment throughout the building, with a focus on reducing energy usage and improving energy efficiency. A new water source heat recovery chiller was installed to provide simultaneous low temperature heating water and chilled water to the building. By utilizing heat recovery, the new system is capable of meeting over 50% of the annual heating load without the use of natural gas fired boilers.

Prime Consultant: architects Tillmann Ruth Robinson


Corkery Community Centre - City of Ottawa

Currently under construction, this project consists of a renovation and addition to the existing rural community centre previously heated with propane. As part of the project, all existing fuel burning appliances are being replaced with 100% electric systems, which in addition to helping meet zero carbon initiatives, also allows for removal of the propane tank and associated fuel delivery. The building features ducted VRF ASHP and ERV for most spaces, with large occupancy spaces served by ASHP air handlers with economizer operation. Standard tank-type electric water heaters replaced the instantaneous propane heater. As a new electrical service was required for the addition, minimal additional electrical infrastructure upgrades were required to decarbonize the facility. The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2023

Prime Consultant: CSV Architects


Weldon Library Renovation & Renewal - Western University

This is a $35 million, 35,110 m2 multi-phase revitalization of D.B. Weldon Library to improve the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of the building. Mechanical and electrical infrastructure is also being updated to current code requirements and industry energy requirements. Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2021 while Phase 2 is ongoing. Phase 1 renovations included the renovation and fitup of 50% of the floor space of the Library, with central mechanical equipment remaining. A low temperature heating loop and heat recovery chiller will be installed as part of Phase 2.

Prime Consultant: Perkins & Will