CaGBC launches Zero Carbon Buildings Framework

by Brianna Crandall — November 16, 2016 — The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) recently released a Zero Carbon Buildings Framework for the assessment of highly energy-efficient buildings that minimize greenhouse gas emissions. The Framework is the first stage of a broader CaGBC Zero Carbon Buildings Initiative to champion the move to lower-carbon commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings in support of Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Working with Integral Group’s Research and Planning group in Vancouver, the CaGBC consulted with approximately 50 individuals representing 40 organizations in the building sector and undertook a comprehensive review of nine international net zero building approaches. The resulting CaGBC Zero Carbon Buildings Framework facilitates broad participation across a range of building types and sizes, provides a clear definition for zero carbon buildings, and establishes five key components for the evaluation of building carbon footprints:

A greenhouse gas intensity metric for assessing a building’s emissions, calculated using regional emissions factors;

  • Energy intensity metrics to incentivize the design of highly efficient, reliable and resilient buildings;
  • A peak energy demand metric to encourage the use of “peak shaving” measures;
  • An embodied carbon metric to recognize the importance of building material lifecycle impacts; and
  • A requirement that renewable energy be generated on site or procured directly in order to ensure the addition of clean power generation.

The next phases of the Zero Carbon Initiative include the identification of specific pathways to zero carbon, a zero carbon building pilot program, and the development of a verification program to be completed and launched by CaGBC by the end of the second quarter of 2017.

The first pilot project in the Initiative is the recently announced Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation at Mohawk College, which aims to be a carbon-free building. This collaboration will provide insight from the application of the framework and help determine requirements for the verification of performance. More specifics about this project will be released in the near future.

The Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac), which participated in the CaGBC’s Net Zero Working Group over the summer, sees this Framework and its resulting impact as a strong approach to the establishment of net zero standards in Canada.

Michael Brooks, CEO of REALpac, pointed out:

With global CO2 emissions now exceeding 400 ppm in the atmosphere, the need for buildings to show carbon reduction leadership has never been more apparent. This report provides an excellent summary of global approaches to date, a thoughtful and proper approach to measuring zero carbon buildings, and new metrics that hopefully all governments in Canada will adopt as a way to achieve the aspirations set out in COP 21.

The Executive Summary is available publicly, and the full report is available free to members. To become a CaGBC member, click here to find out more information. To download the report and read updates about CaGBC’s Net Zero Initiative as it unfolds, visit the CaGBC Zero Carbon Buildings Framework page . The CaGBC is also inviting feedback on this Framework, which can be provided by contacting Mark Hutchinson, vice president of Green Building Programs for CaGBC.

A French version of this report will be released later in the fall.