A Roadmap for more energy efficient large buildings in Canada

Roadmap infographic

From http://www.cagbc.org/retrofitroadmap, the website of the Canada Green Building Council

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has released  a new report which makes recommendations for retrofitting  large buildings as a means to achieving significant  reductions in  GHG emissions by 2030. The Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada  report  builds on a 2016 document by CaGBC, Building Solutions to Climate Change: How Green Buildings Can Help Meet Canada’s 2030 Emissions Targets .

The Roadmap  report begins with analysis of the carbon reduction potential of large buildings in Canada,  based on the factors of size, age, energy source, regional electrical grid, and building type. The analysis was conducted by Montreal consultancy WSP.  Some conclusions may seem obvious – for  example, despite its relatively clean energy grid, Ontario contributes  the greatest emissions from buildings because of the concentration of  large buildings  and the reliance on natural gas for heating and hot water. The level of detail of the analysis, however, reveals more surprising observations , for example: “In all provinces, the “other” asset class category represents the largest opportunity for carbon emissions reductions. This asset class includes warehouses, entertainment venues, leisure and recreation buildings, shopping centres, and colleges and universities.”

CaGBC’s Roadmap for Retrofits in Canada  presents its recommendations for action, clustered in 4 categories, ( in order of their magnitude of impact):

  1. Recommission buildings that have yet to achieve high performance status by optimizing existing building systems for improved control and operational performance;
  2. Undertake deep retrofits in buildings to high-performance standards such as LEED, focusing on energy reduction and ensuring that key building systems such as lighting, HVAC and envelopes are upgraded.  Most impact will come from deep retrofits in  buildings over 35 years old, and in buildings using electric resistance heating systems in regions with carbon-intensive electricity grids (Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Retail buildings are highlighted as an important sector .
  3. Switch to low carbon fuel sources in 20% of buildings over 35 years old in all regions; and
  4. Incorporate solar or other on-site renewable energy systems. The report states that this action would bring the highest carbon emissions reductions in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It would  also be most impactful for  buildings with large roof-to–floor space ratios, such as retail, education and institutional buildings.

The Roadmap report concludes with public policy recommendations for the building sector, including: Canada’s future retrofit code should include a GHG metric along with energy thresholds; each province should develop its own unique roadmap for retrofits, to target areas where investments can yield the highest economic and environmental benefits; and the federal  Low Carbon Economy Fund and future public funding programs should make use of a “roadmap” model.  The federal government is expected to announce policy measures this Fall – see “Federal Government eyes energy retrofits in buildings” in the Globe and Mail. For an excellent summary of the Roadmap report, see “Deep retrofits, ‘recommissioning’ could meet climate targets on their own” (Sept. 22) from  the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) .

In related news, on September 14,  New York Mayor De Blasio proposed what he characterized as a pioneering plan to force landlords to retrofit older, larger commercial and institutional buildings in NYC.   “De Blasio Vows to Cut Emissions in New York’s Larger Buildings”  in the New York Times (Sept. 14) states that  the proposals are only sketched out and are just beginning to search for political allies.  An article in Inside Climate News summarizes the issue of energy efficiency building codes in the U.S., and briefly describes initiatives in the cities of New York, Seattle, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

 

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.

 

Decarbonizing Canada’s economy offers huge construction job opportunities

Columbia Institute jobs for tomorrowA July report asserts that Canada’s ability to meet our climate goals will be based on multiple paths to decarbonization, including construction of new electricity-generation facilities using renewable sources, including hydro, wind, solar, tidal, biomass and geothermal energy. In addition, it will require the construction and maintenance of more efficient buildings, and transportation infrastructure. The tradespeople who can build such low-carbon solutions include masons, boilermakers, pipefitters, insulators, electrical workers, glaziers, HVAC, linemen, ironworkers and others .

The July report,  Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions   makes job creation projections for construction occupations, based on an aggressive emissions reduction target of Net-zero emissions by 2050  (Canada’s current national emissions reduction commitment is 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030) . Overall, the report concludes that the Net-zero emissions reduction target could generate nearly 4 million direct building trades jobs, and 20 million indirect, induced and supply chain jobs by 2050. Some examples from the report:  building small district energy systems in half of Canada’s municipalities with populations over 100,000 would create over 547,000 construction jobs by 2050. Building solar installations would create the next-highest level of construction jobs: 438,350. Building $150 billion of urban transit infrastructure (rapid transit tracks and bridges, subway tunnels, and dedicated bus lanes) would create about 245,000 direct construction jobs by 2050.

Jobs for Tomorrow is much more than a laundry list of job projections. Authors Tyee Bridge, Richard Gilbert, and Charley Beresford were supported by advisers Lee Loftus, President BC Building Trades; Bob Blakely, Canadian Operating Officer, Canada’s Building Trades Unions; and Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director, BC Building Trades. As a result, the report provides a depth of understanding of the construction industry, which is put in the context of solidly researched overviews of Canada’s current economic and climate change policy.  The report was commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU), an umbrella organization affiliated with 15 international construction unions, and released by the Columbia Institute, Vancouver. A French version, Les emplois de demain : Les métiers de la construction du Canada et les émissions nettes zero  is available here   .

 

Ontario’s Climate Action Plan: beyond job creation to job quality for building trades workers

solar-panel-house_4A report released on April 19th aims to contribute to a strong, future-proofed green jobs strategy for Ontario.  Building An Ontario Green Job Strategy: Ensuring the Climate Change Action Plan creates good Jobs where they are needed most  focuses on the building sector provisions within Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan (June 2016)  – which are estimated at 28 – 31% of the budget allocations of the Action Plan.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy states:  “Ontario’s investment of C$1.91 billion to $2.73 billion in retooling buildings, as outlined in the Climate Change Action Plan of 2016 , could create between 24,500 to 32,900 green jobs over the five-year funding plan with a further 16,800 to 24,000 jobs created from the reinvestments of energy cost savings into the economy.”  Job creation forecasts were calculated using  three  job multipliers, including that from the 2012 report by Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Analysis of Job Creation and Energy Costs Savings , published  by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts.

Beyond the evidence of the job creation potential of energy efficiency investments, the report also makes significant recommendations to ensure job quality.  Amongst the recommendations for the provincial government: Conduct a high-carbon jobs census and low-carbon skills survey so that workforce planning will work from an accurate base; make use of existing training programs and facilities; push for rigorous standards (specifically, run a pilot project of a Canadian Building Performance Institute, modelled after the U.S. BPI, to oversee credentialling and certification for trades), and consider an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard; investigate support for domestic industries (avoiding any WTO sanctions by following  a Sustainable Energy Trade Agreement model); work to implement carbon border adjustments to avoid carbon leakage ; and design programs to stand the test of time and changes to the governing party.

Building an Ontario Green Job Strategy recognizes that the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan included language about Just Transition, but it recommends strengthening and clarifying that language.  It also holds up two models for  tendering and procurement processes:  Community Benefits Agreements (CBA), which ensure that infrastructure investments result in social and economic benefits to the community and citizens of the  immediate neighbourhood –  with a case study of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in Toronto,  and High Road Agreements,  where contractors are assessed against an established set of sustainable contracting standards and community benefits- with a  case study of a  Portland Oregon retrofit project.

The report was written by Glave Communications for the Clean Economy Alliance , Environmental Defence, and Blue Green Canada , “with the participation of the United Steelworkers, UNIFOR, Clean Energy Canada, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Labour Education Centre, the Columbia Institute, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Ontario Sustainability, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, and Evergreen.”

 

Architects speak out for climate change mitigation and public advocacy

On April 17, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) issued a press release , announcing  eight principles governing how architects can mitigate climate change,  and urging the U.S.  government “to protect policies designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon in the built environment”.  An excerpt from the AIA statement  “Where we stand on Climate Change”  :  “ We know that carbon neutral design and construction is a growth industry. Employers from roughly 165,000 US companies doing energy efficiency work expect employment to grow 13 percent over the coming year, adding 245,000 more jobs. …. In Philadelphia alone, 77 percent of the city’s buildings need energy retrofits, supporting the creation of 23,000 jobs. …. We call on policymakers to protect financing and incentives to help communities design, build and retrofit their building stock.”

The AIA’s Energy Leadership Group had also recently issued a commentary  which summarizes and updates their long history of attention to sustainability.  “As stewards of the built environment, architects and our collaborators must be leaders in providing a powerful response to climate change. In order to achieve carbon neutral design as standard practice by 2030, we need to urgently shift our practices to apply passive design techniques, energy efficiency measures, embodied carbon reduction strategies, and renewable energy in all of our projects. By implementing these techniques, architects provide our clients with increased value, through benefits to human health and productivity, energy cost savings and resilience.

Architects must also expand our roles beyond design practice, by engaging in public policy to ensure the design, preservation, and construction of sustainable communities and high-performance buildings. This requires our active participation and leadership in the development, evaluation, and use of codes, standards, evidence-based rating systems and financial mechanisms.”

green bibliotechque

Bibliotheque du Boise, Montreal, from the RAIC website

Most recently in Canada, in August 2016,  the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada ( RAIC)  joined with 11 other organizations in an Open Letter to the federal government,  with recommendations for a national plan for improving the energy efficiency of Canada’s buildings.

Illustrating what is possible in sustainable designs, the Bibliothèque du Boisé in suburban Montreal was announced  as the winner of the 2017 Green Building Award, given by the  RAIC and the Canada Green Building Council.   The annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in buildings that are environmentally responsible and promote the health and wellbeing of users.   The building’s sustainability strategies include “an innovative integration of mechanical systems: a passive heating system uses the heat accumulated in a glass prism for redistribution through a geothermal loop. Low-flow ventilation through the floors reduces the number of ducts required. The building relies mostly on natural light, combined with task lighting, for energy savings: 75 percent of the library’s floor area receives natural light. The project emphasized the use of certified wood, low-emitting materials, and recycled or regional materials.”