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.

Standing Committee recommendations for a greener built environment include training

passive house exterior VancouverOn June 18, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development presented their latest and 17th report, Better Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future .  The Committee mandate included the collective of  residences, commercial buildings, and institutional buildings – which are responsible for approximately 12% of  total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

The research for the Standing Committee report began in February 2018 and consisted of  four meetings, during which Committee members heard from 19 witnesses and received five written briefs from witnesses – including government officials, industry associations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association, real estate developers such as Landmark Homes,  Canada Green Building Council, Passive House Canada – but no labour unions or worker organizations .  Testimony is available from this link , and a Brief from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada  has also been made public.

The report summarizes the provisions related to the built environment in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, also available in the federal 2018 Status Report on the Framework),  discusses the building codes in Canada, and addresses the unique situations of heritage buildings and buildings in Canada’s North. The Committee makes 21 specific recommendations, including:

#1  “the National Research Council, working with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, publish the national model energy codes for both new and existing buildings as soon as possible, and for existing buildings no later than fiscal year 2022-23”;

#4 “The Committee recommends that Employment and Social Development Canada ensure that programs exist or are established to address the labour transition required so that skilled personnel are available to implement netzero energy ready codes;

#6 “The Committee recommends that Infrastructure Canada work to provide significant funding in order to accelerate energy retrofits of commercial, institutional, and multi-residential buildings in the public and private sectors, such as through the Canada Infrastructure Bank”;

#10 “The Committee recommends that Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council, and Environment and Climate Change Canada include building operator and building inspector training as part of federal funding, research, and incentive programs aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment”;

#16 “The Committee requests that the federal government focus more attention on its Greening Government Strategy and report back to the Committee on its progress by the end of 2018 .”

A map of green building jobs in B.C.; Edmonton benchmarks its energy efficiency

On August 23, the Pembina Institute released an update  to the British Columbia Green Buildings Map, first launched in 2015 .  The updated interactive map of 2017 shows where approximately 20,000 energy-efficient homes and buildings are located throughout B.C..  Pembina’s research also states that there are 31,700 people employed in the green building sector – an impressive increase from the 23,200 in 2015, especially given the decline in energy-efficient retrofitting which occurred when the previous provincial government ended its LiveSmart rebate program in 2014.

Related documents recently released:  A discussion paper from  the Pembina Institute and The Atmospheric Fund, reminding  us that net-zero standards for  new construction will lead to a significant but insufficient reduction in GHG emissions –   retrofitting of existing buildings is also required. The Pan-Canadian Framework committed to the development of a national model code for existing buildings by 2022.   Energy Regulations for Existing Buildings  identifies the opportunities and challenges for the federal government to consider as it works with the provinces to create and implement supporting measures such as financing, incentives, and energy labeling, as well as ambitious and clear building codes and regulations.

From the Conference Board of Canada in August:  Doing More with Less: Energy Efficiency Potential in Canada.  The report surveys the existing studies about energy efficiency in Canada at the national and provincial level – highlighting the barriers that exist as well as the potential for savings in energy consumption and GHG emissions.  It concludes that energy efficiency measures such as incentive programs, retrofits, audits, land-use measures, building standards and renewable subsidies can substantially reduce Canada’s energy consumption, with the most promise for  energy savings to be found in lighting, space heating and household electronics for residences, and  lighting, computer and HVAC equipment in the commercial sector.

And on the ground,  the City of Edmonton, Alberta launched a three-year Large Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure pilot program in June.  Participants will benchmark the energy performance of the city’s largest buildings, using Natural Resources Canada’s Energy STAR Portfolio Management tool.  The full Program details are here ; a summary is here . At the end of the 3-year pilot, the city will evaluate whether to maintain the program as a voluntary one, or require mandatory reporting.