Digital Innovation for Net-Zero Buildings

This work is made possible by the generous support of the RBC Foundation

Energy as it pertains to buildings (in the forms of electricity and heating) represents a significant pathway to reach net-zero targets, accounting for 18% of Canada’s CO2 emissions. But according to a recent report, Alberta lags other jurisdictions in terms of energy efficiency policies and initiatives. Digital technology can play an important role in identifying and addressing these challenges and many technologies exist. Our challenge is not necessarily about technological innovation but rather about increasing the application of existing technology (a non-technical challenge).

In recent years, the Lab has been exploring different intersections of digital innovation and energy transition with over 200 thought leaders across sectors and fostering collaboration to unlock the potential of digital technology to move Alberta towards a low-carbon future. This area is dynamic where new opportunities emerge, including where the Lab is positioned to add value. In a recent review of past work in this area, engagement with the Lab’s current Fellows and through a series of interviews conducted the following convening question was identified for this work across 2022 and 2023:

Convening Question

How might we enable the application of digital technology in buildings to accelerate our progress* towards net-zero targets?” *(in a just and equitable way)

Since early 2022, the Lab has been convening a multi-stakeholder cohort of over 30 committed leaders representing utilities, regulatory bodies, technology and data experts, governmental agencies, entrepreneurs and building specialists to address this question. Together they have been exploring the complexity of this issue and have identified four key areas of innovation, equity, data, policy and business case, and are now working on collaborative solutions across these areas.

Current Work

Solution Prototyping and Initiative Development

The current phase of this innovation challenge is focused on clarifying and testing high-potential, participant-led solutions that address the convening question, respond to the key innovation areas and that the group feels compelled to champion. These may be possible future candidates for the Impact Studio. From a long list of potential solutions, three solutions were prioritized and are being progressed together with a group of leaders.

An Overview of the Solutions

Match-Making for City of Calgary Living Labs Program

This solution aims to identify an aligned candidate technology or system that helps meet needs the City has in working towards its net-zero targets and that has a high probability to be accepted into the City of Calgary’s Living Labs program. The Living Labs program aims to simplify the process of making public spaces, transportation corridors and land owned or under the jurisdiction of the City more accessible for the research and testing of innovative solutions. The group is currently working towards mobilizing an inspiring digital technology application to the City of Calgary Living Labs program that moves it towards net-zero buildings.

A Decarbonizing Exchange for Commercial Building Practitioners

The buildings sector is a significant contributor to global emissions. Building owners and operators may have employees that do technology, data and/or decarbonization work but more resources and attention are needed to match the scale and urgency of net-zero targets. Creating a roadmap/plan for specific buildings is critical despite its resource intensity and especially for building owners and operators without a dedicated energy manager. This solution aims to leverage commercial building relationships and expertise to help building owners and operators share data and learning from previous projects (e.g. by creating building-level roadmaps) to accelerate decarbonization in buildings.

Data & Revealing Equity Needs

Leaders and decision-makers often create solutions for moving towards net-zero buildings that aren’t inclusive to all and might even create negative consequences for marginalized communities. This solution aims to bring together a group of stakeholders to share perspectives, discuss the complexities and work towards a DRAFT framework to collect and use data to better understand the scale and impact of the net-zero building needs/opportunities for marginalized communities in order to propose more inclusive and equitable solutions.

Interested in learning more or getting involved?

This Innovation Challenge is currently accepting new participants, especially those that have interest and/or expertise in the proposed solutions listed above. If you are interested in taking part in our work, please reach out to the Challenge Team:

Matt Mayer
Lead, Digital Innovation for Net-Zero Buildings

Scott Clements
Support, Digital Innovation for Net-Zero Buildings 


    • Buildings account of 18% of Canadian CO2 emissions
    • 80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today
    • The pace of retrofits isn’t going fast enough to meet our Paris Agreement commitments
    • Social equity and justice concerns are deeply interwoven with this issue, as neglecting those perspectives risks exacerbating existing known and unknown problems and leaving people behind