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 individuals 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 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

Identification of a candidate technology or system for the City of Calgary’s Living Labs Program

This group is currently collaborating to identify an aligned candidate technology or system that has a high probability to be accepted into the City of Calgary’s Living Labs program –  a program that aims to simplify the process to make 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 working to mobilize a group of technology providers to put forth a collective application to the Living Labs Program.

Open Building Energy Use Data

Data is one of the key areas of innovation and the participants have prioritized the exploration of the complexities and challenges with gathering and sharing data for decision making. This group is testing the idea that data can help to create a longer term roadmapping for smaller building owners, many of whom are creating plans to meet decarbonizing goals but may lack resources to have dedicated energy managers. They are convening to explore the opportunity to give coaching and tools to these building owners/operators to build their own roadmap for decarbonizing their buildings.

Data for Equity

Leaders and decision-makers tend to create solutions for moving towards net-zero buildings that aren’t inclusive to all and might even create consequences for marginalized communities. This group is exploring what municipal data exists, where the data gaps lie, how to appropriately collect this data and what frameworks, tools and/or processes will help decision-makers better understand where solutions are needed to move towards net-zero buildings for all.

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 

Challenge Process Overview


    • 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