Monday, October 27, 2008

Shifting Into the Mainstream: first CaGBC summit highlights

by Sonja Persram, BSc, MBA, LEED® AP
Source: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.

The first summit of the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in June 2008 provided a variety of useful info and action possibilities. Some presentation highlights follow from Shifting Into the Mainstream:

CaGBC President Thomas Mueller stated that Canada’s current GHG emissions were 124% above Kyoto targets, hence the ambitious CaGBC targets for Canada, including a 50% reduction in energy and water use from 2005 baselines by 2015
[1] and an estimated 50 MT reduction in GHG emissions by 2015. Using the new performance-based Canadian Rating System, the CaGBC is aiming for substantial energy and water savings from existing commercial buildings and homes. There are two major initiatives: the LEED Canada Initiative (targeting the top 25% market leaders) and the Green Building Performance Initiative which is establishing a database of building performance, and aims to improve performance of existing buildings by setting benchmarks (with continuous improvement) for energy use, GHG emissions and water use via pilot projects. This is a voluntary mechanism aimed at market transformation – that will be supported by carbon trading system[2] [3] in development.

Kevin Hydes, Chair of the
World Green Building Council noted that a major challenge to implementing green buildings is the siloization[4] imposed by the regulations imposed by different segments of the construction industry, which arose independently.

Sandy Wiggins, immediate past Chair of the
USGBC observed that Chapters have been overwhelmed by homeowners seeking advice and information.

Rich Coleman, the Province of British Columbia’s Minister of Housing and Social Development, discussed the province’s GHG reductions target: 33% by 2020, and 80% by 2050... and that their new
BC Building Code addressing energy and water efficiency, developed in one year, comes into effect in September 2008 with ongoing aggressive upgrades.

Chris Higgins, CaGBC Coordinator of LEED Canada for Homes noted the schedule for the rating system:
o The initiation of the case study on Canada-sited US projects was Fall 2007.
o The rating system adaptation for Canada is in Summer 2008.
o The rating system goes to ballot in the Fall of 2008.
o Launch of the Canadian Rating System in Spring 2009.

Peter Busby of Busby Perkins + Will described an
ecodensity method[5] of transforming the City of Vancouver, British Columbia - from regions with differing carbon footprints ranging from 1.5 to 6 tonnes CO2 per person – to a system of nodes throughout the city by 2031, which emit one-half the CO2. These nodes include proximate jobs, amenities and transit access; district energy; parks; localized water and wastewater treatment; buildings that are carbon neutral; and walkable communities within 5-10 minutes. Busby also showed other interesting national and city emissions statistics.

Joe Van Belleghem of
Windmill West presented updates on Windmill West’s Victoria, BC project Dockside Green. These include:
  • In combining a consideration for First Nations ancestral heritage of the Dockside Green lands - and with a concern for social equity, employment training and local economic development - First Nations cultural and job training initiatives are underway, as well as support for similar regional opportunities.
  • Blackwater treatment using a GE ZENON system, with water reuse mostly for toilets and irrigation, as well as for recharging the development’s naturalized waterways… in which an otter was recently sighted.

Ryan Scott of Avalon Master Builder discussed technical details of Discovery III - their demonstration house for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s EQuilibrium Homes project– a 2,196 sf urban freehold single family dwelling that will be net zero energy:
o Significant insulation: R86 roof, R72 walls, R60 floor, R5.6 windows.
o Space Heating and district hot water load is 33,988 MJ: solar supplies 33,792 MJ, and solar pre-heating for ventilation accounts for 1,171 MJ.
o PV supplies 25,362 MJ grid-connected.

David Suzuki shared a tool for knowledge transfer about the critical state of the earth’s resources. Because economists treat nature and the benefits that natural systems provide as externalities, the economic system becomes destructive in assuming there should be no limit to economic growth, and that the economy must grow forever. Suzuki questioned: ‘how much (growth) is enough?’
[6] and described a means of demonstrating this as a test tube of organisms that grows exponentially, doubling each hour. At the 59th minute the test tube is half full – and in one more minute all resources in the test tube will have been consumed. Suzuki observed we have been “using our biological capital for the past 3 decades” and now are at earth’s ‘59th minute’.

Suzuki rued the lack of policy uptake of ‘one of the most important documents of the last half-century’ from the time of its publication in 1977. This report,
Canada as a Conserver Society: resource uncertainties and the need for new technologies[7] was researched by a Canada Science Council Committee chaired by eminent scientist Dr. Ursula Franklin. I recently received a rare copy of this remarkable work from a thoughtful donor and summarize below some of the recommendations, from which both Canada and the U.S. can benefit:

  • Impediments to retrofitting homes with insulation should be removed and “loans, grants, interest rates and/or tax incentives should be provided to accelerate the process”.
    Adopt and enforce new energy standards (in new building codes) in all provinces; legislate sun-rights
  • Assist homeowners by lease financing (of energy-saving equipment).
    Transition workforces “to put the creative energies of Canadians to work on conserver problems and opportunities.”
  • Research retrofits of suburbs, which “have grown as expressions of a high-energy-consumption lifestyle, with very high dependence on the private automobile. Should fuel prices become desperate, or prices rise exorbitantly, it may be useful to consider ways of modifying the typical suburban development to reduce its dependence on the automobile.”
  • Solar (passive and active methods) and wind capture must be encouraged; use of storage will address intermittency. Wind has the potential to supply base load.

A farsighted work, indeed. Other useful quotes are found here. Suzuki wryly observed that instead of action on this report, if Canadians see a problem, they form a committee: since the report was produced, “during 20 years, 5 commissions were set up to deal with energy.”[9]

I conducted an interview with Karel Valk, who is Programme Manager, Construction, in the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) about sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. He noted:

  • Every building that is new or renovated will use 50% less energy in 2020
    NC in 2012 will be net zero energy
  • A comparative analysis conducted of Netherlands standards and LEED found that current practice for office buildings in the Netherlands is equivalent to LEED Silver.

A question overheard at the conference: should those already committed to greening take full advantage of (large) incentives?

The 2008 CaGBC summit was a great success. Next year’s summit dates (currently unconfirmed) will be June 9-12, 2009. See the Canada Green Building Council’s website and Shifting into the Mainstream for updates.

Green Syndicated Columnist Sonja Persram is co-author with lead author David Eisenberg (of DCAT), of a forthcoming publication on code, regulatory and other systemic barriers to Living Building projects, conducted for Cascadia Region Green Building Council. She is lead author of Marketing Green Buildings to Owners/Tenants of Leased Properties for the Canada Green Building Council (2007) with co-authors Nils Larsson (MRAIC) and Mark Lucuik (P.Eng, LEED AP). Ms. Persram wrote: Green Buildings: A Strategic Analysis of North American Markets for Frost & Sullivan (published 2006) addressing Energy, Water and Facilities Management; and the U.S.A. portion of International Sustainable Building Policy Initiatives which was a 2007 study for Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation whose project lead was Nils Larsson. She is a member of the CaGBC Greater Toronto Chapter’s Business Development Committee and the USGBC’s Social Equity Task Force. Contact: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc:

[1] See article by Sonja Persram on the WorldGBC International Congress:
[2] Several provinces and U.S. states are working to develop a cap-and-trade system for 2012:
[3] Carbon trading in The Province of British Columbia is phasing in a revenue-neutral carbon tax with provision for lower-income residents
[4] Discussed in detail in an upcoming publication authored by David Eisenberg (of DCAT) & Sonja Persram, conducted for the Cascadia Region Green Building Council on code, regulatory and other systemic barriers to Living Building projects.
[5] Described in “Advancing the Sustainable Region: Issues for the Liveable Region Strategic Planning Review, Greater Vancouver Regional District 2005.
[6] Suzuki, David, presentation to Canada Green Building Council summit Shifting Into the Mainstream, June 12, 2008
[7] Science Council of Canada Report No. 27, Canada as a Conserver Society: Resource Uncertainties and the Need for New Technologies, September 1977, Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Researched by Science Council Committee on the Implications of a Conserver Society. Committee Chair: Dr. Ursula Franklin (from December 1975); John Pollock (March 1975 to December 1975). Members: Dr. Ursula Franklin, Dr. Gabriel Filteau, Dr. Ran Ide, John Pollock. Report Staff: Dr. Arthur J. Cordell (Project Manager), Dr. R. W. Jackson, Dr. J-A. Potworowski, Bruce Henry, Andrea Gerber.
[8] Issues also covered for the Canadian ‘scene’ – with more emphasis on the U.S., in the upcoming publication by David Eisenberg (of DCAT) & Sonja Persram, conducted for Cascadia Region Green Building Council.
[9] Suzuki, David, op. cit.

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