A Roadmap to improve green building skills in Ontario

CAGBC trading upA report released by the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) at the end of  January is called “ an action plan to close the low-carbon building skills gap in the Ontario construction industry”.  Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future  estimates that the skills gap is costing Ontario C$24.3 billion in annual economic activity, and limiting the province’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report identifies where shortages in low-carbon skills training currently exist, and defines specific actions that labour, governments, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations can take to optimize green building skills training.  Although it focuses on the skilled trades, the report also calls for skills upgrading for designers, architects, engineers, buildings officials and buildings managers, highlighting that  “Changes to the larger construction approach and acknowledgment of soft skills are necessary to deliver high-performing buildings. We therefore need to increase overall levels of ‘green literacy’ .”   The 6-page Executive summary is here  .

The CaGBC also released the  2018  LEED Impact Report for Canada  in January 2019 providing  statistical snapshots of  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified and Zero Carbon building in each province and territory – with measures for energy savings, GHG reductions, water savings, recycling, and green roofs.

On February 13, the U.S. Green Building Council released its annual ranking of  the Top 10 countries and regions of the world (excluding the U.S.) which have the highest  cumulative gross square meters of construction which are LEED-certified.  Canada ranked 2nd   in terms of  gross square metres of LEED certified space, after China,  and ranked first in the number of certified projects, with 3,254 certified projects.

LEED Green buildings deliver energy savings, reduced emissions, and health benefits – including reduced absenteeism

A new study which examined  how LEED-certified green buildings had performed over a 16 year period reported that the green buildings delivered $7.5B in energy savings, $1.4B of benefits in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and a further $4.4B in public health benefits.  Those health benefits included an estimate of 21,000 lost days of work avoided in the U.S. alone; other health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172–405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, and 16,000 lost days of school in the U.S.  The results are summarized in “Harvard study: Green buildings deliver nearly $6bn in health and climate benefits” ;  the full study appears as “Energy savings, emission reductions, and health co-benefits of the green building movement” in the  Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology online (Jan. 30) (restricted access).  The  study was commissioned by the engineering company United Technologies Corporation and conducted by researchers at Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  Buildings studied were located in the U.S., China, India, Brazil , Germany and Turkey.

LEED office Burnaby Willingdon

Willingdon Office building, Burnaby B.C. – photo from the website of  Lighthouse Sustainable Building Centre

Although Canada was not included in the study, on January 22, the Canada Green Building Council  announced  that Canada ranked second amongst countries outside the U.S. for its LEED-certified buildings, with  a current total of 2,970 projects totaling more than 40.77 million gross square meters of space.  The 2017 annual Top 10 Countries and Regions for LEED list is compiled by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize LEED  markets outside the U.S., which remains the largest market at 30,669 projects with 385.65 million gross square meters of space. China is the largest market outside the U.S., followed by Canada, followed by India, Brazil, and Germany.   In February 2018,  certification and professional credentialing services for LEED and other energy-efficiency programs in Canada will change, with the launch of a joint venture  between the Canada Green Building Council and for-profit Green Building Certification Inc. Canada ( GBCI). The relationship of the two bodies is outlined in their press release .

Net-Zero and Net-Positive Green Building: Vancouver’s New Policy, and a Pilot Project in Waterloo, Ontario

green building and bike VancouverOn May 1, the Green Building  Policy for Rezoning  took effect in the city of Vancouver, mandating that new commercial and multi-unit residential buildings  be built to standards modeled after the international Passive House standards, with airtight design, exceptional insulation, and good ventilation.  The Policy, originally approved in November 2016, is part of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan and its Zero Emissions Building Plan .  Matt Horne, the city’s Climate Policy Manager, writes in an OpEd in the Vancouver Sun  that the new rules will result in buildings which emit half as much carbon pollution, with slightly lower construction and operating costs.  Vancouver’s new rezoning policy  is in line with the province-wide standard for energy efficiency in new construction, the B.C. Energy Step Code , which came into force in April, 2017 in an effort to upgrade municipal building codes across the province.

Pembina Vancouver green-buildings-jobs-2017The Pembina Institute praises Vancouver’s new Rezoning policy and its benefits for workers in “Vancouver’s green buildings policy is good news for homeowners and renters” : “Constructing new energy-efficient homes and offices will be a boon to Vancouver’s green building sector. In B.C., the sector already employs over 23,000 people, and the industry is ready to respond to increased demand. New trades training is being offered by such institutions as the British Columbia Institute of Technology, which recently launched a new hands-on High-Performance Building Lab. Passive House Canada now trains hundreds of people a year, including designers, builders, and government staff. Energy-efficient buildings are one of B.C.’s biggest opportunities for real and lasting job creation.”   A February  article in the Globe and Mail, “The Economic Case for Retrofitting Buildings” echos this “ready to work” idea in the context of retrofitting: “we have the know-how and technology to be a key player in meeting a steep challenge. Building efficiency isn’t just low hanging fruit, it’s the fruit that’s ripened and ready to fall into our lap.”

Evolv1 is a net positive building project in Waterloo Ontario, being described as a “game-changer”,“groundbreaking”, and “iconic”.    Evolv1  will generate more energy than it needs for its own operation from 1.5 acres of solar panels on the roof and carport, allowing it to power the building’s 14 electric vehicle charging stations  and sell any remaining excess  to the provincial electricity grid.  The building is also aiming for LEED Platinum certification through the use of triple-glazed glass, very high levels of insulation,  digitally-controlled LED lighting with occupancy and light level sensors, natural light, a three-storey green wall to improve air quality, and a geo-exchange system that extracts heat from the ground for winter heating and returns excess heat to the ground in the summer. Finally, the building will have direct access to the city’s light rail transit system to reduce the environmental impact of commuters.  Completion is scheduled for 2018. The project is being built by  Cora Group  construction, in partnership with Sustainable Waterloo Region and the University of Waterloo, as well as  anchor tenant, consultants  EY Canada.  The  Cora Group website provides illustrations.

Evolv1 was highlighted in the Waterloo Region Record in “An office building so green it actually produces energy”  (Feb. 17),  and in the May issue of  the Natural Resources Canada Newsletter, Heads-Up.  Sustainable Waterloo released its own press releases about the project: “Raising the Standard” , and a description of the vision for the project.

Employee-Related Initiatives at Canada’s Greenest Workplaces

The results of the 9th annual Canada’s Greenest Employers competition were made available online at the Globe and Mail on Earth Day. “Canada’s greenest employers help the Earth – and their bottom lines” (April 22) is a quick overview, but the online list of winners allows readers to select each employer by name, and find much more detail on the reasons why they were selected: e.g. unique initiatives, presence of an environmental audit, organizational responsibility for green initiatives, building LEED rating, community initiatives, etc. Companies are listed both for the environmental impact of their products/services, and their workplace policies. For example, Nature’s Path is an organic food manufacturer in Richmond, B.C., but was also cited for its mandatory sustainability training for all new employees. Keilhauer, a custom furniture manufacturer in Toronto, is included for its in-house “Design for Environment” employee training program, which began in 2011 and sparked the switch to more environmentally-responsible manufacturing processes such as water-based wood stains and  FSC-certified wood. Not all employers on the list produce green products: e.g. Labatt’s Breweries is included because of its significant water and waste reduction programs, and for its employee engagement initiatives – all employee suggestions for green improvements are entered into a searchable database so employees in any of the parent company Anheuser-Busch locations around the world can learn from each other. The Greenest Employers list is linked to the Eluta job search engine to aid job-seekers who prefer to work for a green company.

CUPE Provides a New Guide for Greener Workplaces

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, in advance of Earth Day in April 2015, has released Healthy Clean and Green: A Worker’s Action Guide to a Greener Workplace. CUPE answers the basic question, “Is climate change a union issue?” and then focuses on workplace actions and solutions, with examples and tips to improve energy efficiency, recycling and reduction of resources, worker education, and workplace environment committees. The book also describes the LEED features of the CUPE National Headquarters in Ottawa. To further encourage greening activities, the union announced the 2015 CUPE Green Workplace Contest, with a deadline of May 2015.