Deep retrofits—which can achieve 50% or greater energy savings— present an opportunity to improve many aspects of an existing building including addressing energy efficiency, emissions, end-of-life assets, and occupant comfort. A deep retrofit can even increase market competitiveness and curb appeal. Despite these known benefits, the pathway to conducting a deep retrofit can still feel unclear.   

In this post, we debunk five common deep retrofit myths. Join RDH at the 2024 Retrofit Canada Conference June 12-13 to learn about how we can help you with your project goals.  



Many owners perceive deep retrofits to carry impractically high costs, but improvements with less financial impact are possible.  

A deep retrofit does not have to be done all at once. With foresight and a plan, it can be accomplished over several years, aligning major projects with planned equipment and system renewals.  The added cost to replace an aged asset with something better can be minimal. 

Available funding and incentive programs can offset a meaningful portion of the implementation costs, and projects can be timed to best leverage these opportunities. The important thing is to make sure the plan achieves your end goals, whether those be zero emissions, climate-adapted systems, and/or renewed asset value. 


Finding a team with the right skill sets is expensive and overwhelming. 

While we have delivered multiple deep retrofit projects, we also recognize the work is complex. Given the interconnectedness of systems on any larger building and the added complexity of the building being occupied, it’s important to bring on a team with foresight that can anticipate challenges before they arise.  

A multidisciplinary team like RDH can be your champion in a complex project dynamic that requires significant levels of coordination between the design team, a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between systems, and extensive planning and coordination before construction. We can help right-size services to fit the needs of any project.


We can’t move residents out of our building, or have nowhere to relocate them, so we can’t do a deep retrofit. 

We have been doing renewals and repairs on occupied multifamily buildings for over 25 years, and nearly always plan our work with the expectation that residents will remain in their homes throughout the project. While there may be short-term disruption, there are mitigating strategies to manage the impacts, including staging work to minimize the time spent on each part of the building, scheduling activities to minimize the number of suite entries, and providing refuge/quiet spaces or temporary relocations within the building to accommodate more sensitive residents. A well-documented notification protocol and established lines of communication are critical.   


Not all buildings benefit from a retrofit.  

There are proven technical solutions to address all manner of system deficiencies, including structural, ventilation, and the ability to moderate extreme weather, and the costs to do so are typically a fraction of what it would cost to rebuild a similar structure from the ground up. The embodied emissions impact of renewing a building is a fraction of what is required to build new.    


The impact of a deep retrofit is insignificant.

A well-executed retrofit can immediately and significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint and should be considered a critical component of broader climate action strategies.  

The comfort of a better-performing building can be felt immediately. This can include reduced drafts, cold temperatures, and noise transmission from a window replacement; better air quality, and improved comfort and thermal safety from modern, efficient, well-controlled heating and cooling systems.  


Collective action is necessary! More than 70% of buildings existing today will be standing in 2050. Retrofitting can result in 50-75% less carbon than construction from scratch. The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has estimates that show how large building retrofits alone can reduce building sector emissions by up to 51%. No action is insignificant when it comes to climate change as it relies on the efforts of all of us to be prepared for the future.  


Written by:

Christy Love