Toronto passes new standards for new buildings, retrofits

55% of GHG emissions in the city of Toronto are attributed to homes and buildings ( 60% of that from residential buildings and 40% from commercial and institutional buildings).  On July 14, Toronto City Council took one more step to address those emissions, by approving new building policies. As described in the City’s press release, the policies include a “Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy to decarbonize all existing residential, commercial and institutional buildings within the next 30 years; a Net Zero Carbon Plan to reduce emissions in City-owned buildings; and an update to the Toronto Green Standard to achieve net zero emissions in new development by 2030.”  

The Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy: is expected to increase local building retrofit economic activity by 87 per cent over the next 30 years, and nearly double annual investment in existing buildings. It is also expected to create an additional 7,000 direct, full-time jobs in local construction, energy services and supportive work over 30 years. Further,

  • it will begin with voluntary emissions performance measures and targets, transitioning to mandatory requirements in 2025, at which time it will require annual emissions performance reporting and public disclosure;
  • Expand and enhance retrofit financing;
  • Support workforce development and training;
  • City Council will lead by example with a plan to retrofit all City-owned buildings to net zero emissions by 2040.   

The Green Standard for New Buildings: Emissions reductions in new buildings will be regulated by the newly approved the Toronto Green Standard Version 4.  The original Toronto Green Standard was introduced in 2010 and has been updated approximately every 4 years.  The latest Version 4 addresses requirements for “building energy and GHG reduction and electric vehicle parking, and introduces tracking of embodied emissions in building materials used in construction. It addresses resilience through enhanced green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff, reduce urban heat island impacts and promote biodiversity, including extensive and higher performance green roofs, bioswales, rain gardens, native pollinator species plantings and a new requirement for ”green streets” (roads or streets that incorporate green infrastructure).”

Version 4 will apply to new development applications beginning on May 1, 2022.

According to Mayor John Tory: “Implementing this strategy will also be essential to public health and resilience in the face of a changing climate. Extreme heat is already causing an average of 120 premature deaths annually, and this number is expected to double by 2050 without strong action. Retrofit measures such as improving building envelopes and installing heat pumps greatly reduce exposure to extreme heat and will ensure Torontonians are safe during increasingly frequent and severe heat waves.”  

 Related reading:

“TAF congratulates the City of Toronto on passing two landmark low-carbon building policies”  reaction by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund to Council’s new policies.

“‘No Vaccine for Climate Change’, Departing Toronto Energy Director Warns, in Critique of City’s Climate Performance” (The Energy Mix, April 2021) offers an overview of Toronto’s recent climate initiatives

Canada’s Climate Retrofit Mission, published by Efficiency Canada in June 2021. Authors Brendan Haley and Ralph Torrie state that, at the current pace, it will take 142 years to retrofit all low-rise residential buildings and 71 years to retrofit all commercial floor area in Canada. The report emphasizes the urgency of the task and outlines market and policy innovations to speed up the process and achieve economies of scale to reduce costs.

Efficiency Canada also recently released Codes4Climate: A Building Code Advocacy Toolkit,  to encourage net-zero energy performance through improvements to building codes across Canada.

Workforce 2030 website offers reports and information about the labour market aspects of green building skills for Ontario.

Massachusetts climate legislation almost derailed by opposition to greener building code provisions

An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy was signed into law on March 26, summarized in Governor Charlie Baker’s press release, here . It is a sweeping and ambitious bill which sets emissions reduction targets, including six sectoral goals, culminating in net-zero emissions for the state by 2050; sets appliance efficiency standards; incentivizes electric vehicles; includes environmental justice protections; and orders funding for a clean energy equity workforce and market development program to support employment opportunities for certified minority- and women-owned small business and individuals living in environmental justice communities. 

And as described in “What You Need To Know About The New Mass. Climate Law”  (NPR, WBUR, March 26) ,the Roadmap legislation also authorizes the development of stretch energy codes for net-zero energy buildings. The Department of Energy Resources will announce the final version after public consultations for the next 18 months, after which municipalities can choose to adopt the model codes.  The building code provisions were the major sticking point in the political battle over this legislation, and triggered a Governor’s veto in 2020, thanks to organized opposition from the natural gas industry and real estate industry, both of whom see a potential threat of natural gas bans.  

This Massachusetts example is explained in “Sweeping Mass. climate law revives gas ban battle” (Mar. 29). The broader battle which is forming across the U.S.is described in “Developers clash with  U.S. Cities on vote for greener building codes” in The Energy Mix, and in “A Texas city had a bold new climate plan – until a gas company got involved” in The Guardian (March 1).   The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) describes how this conflict is playing out at the International Code Council (ICC), which sets model building code standards, and which “just threw out the elections process by which state and local government officials recently overcame powerful commercial interests to secure large energy savings.”

Canada’s Green Building Council updates Zero Carbon Building Standards; government review continues

A public review of Canada’s Building Codes (building, energy, and fire) was open from January 13 to March 13, 2020, under the National Research Council of Canada . The Canadian Green Building Council and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada sent a joint letter with three recommendations :  First, that  “the code requirements should address not only energy efficiency, but also the carbon emissions associated with construction and operations.”  2. Add operational GHG intensity metrics :  “The National Model Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) and the National Building Code (NBC) should include the addition of operational GHG intensity metrics in order to better align code outcomes with the objectives of the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.”  3. Develop embodied carbon metrics:  “The next update to the code should include embodied carbon reduction targets using a comparative approach where proposed buildings are compared to a baseline version of the same building.”

The Pembina Institute also made a Submission,  summarized in a press release on March 13 , and available in full, here.   Like the CGBC, the Pembina submission calls for GHG intensity metrics in addition to energy efficiency metrics, and goes further  in calling for  a cap, rather than targets, for the embodied carbon associated with buildings.  In a separate OpEd on April 15,  the Pembina Institute calls for government to “ramp up”  all green-building funding models over the next five years, with the goal of retrofitting half of Canada’s building stock by 2030.

Zero Carbon Building Standard v.2  released by Canadian Green Building Council

zero carbon building stnadardIn the meantime, while government deliberates over the changes to the country’s building codes, the Canadian Green Building Council released  Version 2 of its Zero Carbon Building Standard on March 10, updating the previous version from 2017. The ZCB Standard version 2 itself has two components: ZCB-Design, for  new buildings as well as the retrofit of existing structures, and ZCB-Performance, which provides a framework for annual verification that buildings have achieved zero carbon. The Zero Carbon Building Standard 2 technical documents are here    .  Updates from version 1 are highlighted in the  press release , and relate to: 1.  Embodied Carbon: (Projects must now reduce and offset carbon emissions for the building’s life-cycle including those associated with the manufacture and use of construction materials.); 2. Refrigerants: (v.2 “ encourages” best practices to minimize potential leaks of refrigerants ); 3. Energy Efficiency: ( more stringent energy efficiency and airtightness requirements), and 4. Innovation: (requires projects demonstrate two innovative strategies to reduce carbon emissions) .

The Canadian Green Building Council published its landmark study in February 2019, Making the Case for Building to Zero Carbon . It demonstrates that that zero carbon buildings can provide a positive financial return over a 25-year life-cycle, inclusive of carbon pollution pricing, and requiring only a modest capital cost premium.

B.C. Building Step Code credited with the province’s top rank in Canada for energy efficiency

energy efficiency scorecardWith a view to encouraging cooperation amongst provinces, Efficiency Canada launched  Canada’s  first-ever Provincial Energy Efficiency Scorecard  on November 19,  accompanied by an interactive database  which is promised to be updated regularly.   The full Scorecard report is a free download from this link   (registration required). Provinces were scored out of 100 for their energy efficiency programs, enabling policies, building, transportation, and industry, between January 2018 and June 2019.   British Columbia ranks #1 (56 points), followed by  Quebec (48), Ontario (47)  and Nova Scotia (45). Saskatchewan was last with only 18 out of 100 possible points. But beyond the gross numbers and overview comparisons,  the report, at 190 pages,  provides a wealth of detail  and policy information provided about  best practices and achievements in each jurisdiction – especially about electrification, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and building policies and codes.

Two of the study co-authors, Brendan Haley and James Gaede, have written  “Canadians can unite behind energy efficiency” published in Policy Options , providing context and highlights.

B.C.’s Energy Step Code estimated to generate 1,700 jobs by 2032 while improving energy efficiency

BCenergySTEP_Logo_NavThe B.C. Energy Step Code, enacted in April 2017, is a voluntary standard  which outlines an incremental approach to achieving more energy-efficient buildings in the province of British Columbia, over and above  the requirements of the B.C. Building Code. According to a report released  on March 7 by the Vancouver Economic Commission, the Energy Step Code has created a local market of $3.3 billion for green building products and the potential to create over 1,700 manufacturing and installation jobs between 2019–2032.

Green Buildings Market Forecast :  Demand for Building Products, Metro Vancouver, 2019–2032 was written for “manufacturers, suppliers, investment partners and other industry professionals to help them understand and prepare for changes in building product demand and performance requirements …”  Along with a companion technical report , BC Energy Step Code Supply Chain Study – Final Report  ( March 2019), it describes the basics of the Energy Step Code, and provides regional data and demand estimates for various products such as high-performance windows, lighting, heat pumps and renewable energy systems.  Employment impacts are not the main focus, but the report also estimates the potential job creation impact to be 925 sustainable manufacturing jobs throughout B.C., as well as 770 ongoing installation jobs in Metro Vancouver.  The Market Demand Forecasting Tool which underlies the report was developed by Vancouver Economic Commission in consultation with real estate and construction industry experts over eight months in 2018; modelling for the report was done by The Delphi Group. The details of the forecasting tool are documented in Appendix One of the report.

Two related, earlier reports: 1.  Energy Step Code Training and Capacity , a consultants report from 2017, discusses the competencies required by professions (including architects and engineers) and trades, and provides an extensive inventory of training agents in the province.

The State of Vancouver’s Green Economy (June 2018) by the Vancouver Economic Commission, which states that the largest segment of jobs in Vancouver in 2016 were in the  Green Building sector, with 7,689 jobs.  The total Green Economy job count,  encompassing Green Building; Clean Tech; Green Mobility; Materials Management; and Local Food was estimated at 25,000 jobs.

The B.C. Energy Step Code launched a new website in 2019.