A look at the Zero Carbon Building Standard in Canada

We like to use this space to highlight Canadian market sectors that offer the opportunity for participation from service and product providers outside the country. And the renewable and building industries certainly deserve a close look.

Devised by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), the Zero Carbon Building Standard is the first green building program in Canada to use carbon emissions as the prime indicator of building performance.

This standard not only gauges a building’s energy efficiency, but also promotes careful choices about the types of energy used and encourages renewable energy generation both on and offsite. It can also be applied to a broad array of buildings, including new and existing commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings.

Zero Carbon Building Standard requirements include demonstrating a zero carbon balance, providing a zero carbon transition plan, installing a minimum of five percent onsite renewable energy, meeting a thermal energy demand intensity target, reporting energy use and peak demand intensities, and reporting the building’s embodied carbon.

There are two certifications administered under the Zero Carbon Building Standard:

  1. The Design certification, which models a zero carbon balance, highly efficient envelope, and onsite renewable energy systems; and
  2. The Performance certification, which is awarded based on a twelve-month period spent evaluating performance on peak electricity impacts, and GHG emissions associated with structural and envelope materials. (The Performance certification results must be verified annually.)

The CaGBC is currently working with 16 projects across Canada as part of the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, which will test the standard’s applicability and shape its development. These projects range in size from 20,000 to 1.3 million square feet and include buildings such as the City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Fire Hall, and the major renovation of the Arthur Meighen Building in mid-town Toronto.

Furthering the zero carbon initiative was the Zero Carbon Buildings Working Group, whose membership includes government bodies, industry members, and academia, working to identify the needs and challenges of promoting a green building standard in Canada. Approximately 50 individuals representing 40 building sector organizations were consulted during the Zero Carbon Building Standard’s development.

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