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Green Building Standards – it’s the Future of Living

November 30, 2017

Hard to believe, but buildings are behaving badly - they generate about 35% of greenhouse gases; they account for 35% of landfill waste (construction and demolition): and they consume 70% of municipal water. Undoubtedly, making buildings “green” will have a substantial positive impact. Green buildings, based on green building standards, are smart buildings. And while there is extra expense associated with green building standards, the payback is short, the payoff substantial.

Canada Green Building Council

The CaGBC is committed to the transformation of buildings into highly performing, healthy structures. From coast to coast across Canada, the vision is on a sustainable future based on a set of parameters that advocate and promote green building standards. The Canada Green Building Council works to change industry standards; develop best practices; and support green building. The CaGBC supports member groups in initiating sustainable design and construction practices.

LEED® Canada

“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is an international, third party certification for buildings and homes. LEED® Canada is administered by the Canada Green Building Council, and focuses on FIVE specific areas: water efficiency; energy efficiency, sustainable site development; indoor environmental quality; and building material selection. LEED® certification (silver, gold, or platinum) are granted to builders based on a very comprehensive 100-point ratings system.


ENERGY STAR® is an initiative that partners the Government of Canada with industry in order to promote energy efficiency. The recognizable ENERGY STAR® symbol allows Canadian residents to identify energy efficient products and services. Industry partners employ the ENERGY STAR® program to manage and standardize energy performance in the course of their business activity. Building an ENERGY STAR® home makes for a 2-3 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Old Version of EnerGuide

Under the umbrella of Natural Resources Canada, the existing EnerGuide Rating System grades a home using a 0-100 rating (higher rating = higher energy efficiency). A home built according to green building standards could potentially score 75+. The newest version of EnerGuide Rating offers homeowners and homebuilders new opportunities for enhancing energy efficiency. Bottom line, buildings become more energy-efficient, operating costs are cut, and emissions are reduced.

New Version of EnerGuide

The EnerGuide Rating System (from Natural Resources Canada) accurately measures the energy performance of a home as a function of annual energy use. When assessed by an accredited Energy Advisor, the rating measures a home’s annual energy consumption in GIGAJOULES (and not the actual energy consumption shown on utility bills). The lower the rating, the better the energy performance. Homeowners are also made aware of where energy is being consumed.

The importance of green building standards in buildings

An “ideal” green building will deliver a number of impacts. It will preserve the environment around the building site. Construction will not disrupt land and water resources. And the building itself will support a healthy indoor environment for residents.

Green building standards are designed to be environmentally responsible, while being resource-efficient.  These standards govern a building’s life cycle from design, to construction, to operation. As well, future renovation and deconstruction is integrated.

Going beyond classical building design, green building standards ensure high performance for a building and long-term sustainability. The objective is to reduce trash and pollution; use water and energy more efficiently; and protect occupant health.

It’s a misconception that green building standards are costly. While the upfront cost of green building materials is more costly, the longer-term savings validate the investment. Just the savings on annual energy costs make for a good investment.

The benefits derived with green building standards

  • Improved indoor air quality
  • Enhanced natural daylight
  • Less energy consumption
  • Less water usage/wastage
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Diminished greenhouse gas emissions
  • Protection to biodiversity
  • Long term sustainability

Green building initiatives throughout Canada: Zero Carbon Building Standard  

In response to Canada’s national climate change commitments, the Canada Green Building Council has launched a Zero Carbon Building Standard – a standard that will highlight carbon reductions as the key indicator of building performance. 

The Zero Carbon Building Standard is bold and ambitious, defining new benchmarks for building performance. The building industry will be empowered to dramatically eliminate emissions from buildings, while contributing to Canada’s climate future.

The focus of the ZCBS is on carbon pollution, going further than energy performance, and aiming at the carbon intensity of electrical grids and fossil fuel consumption. The emphasis is on energy efficiency, heating technology, and renewable energy.

A Zero Carbon Building is highly energy-efficient, producing (or procuring) carbon-free energy that is renewable. Doing so offsets the carbon emissions associated with building operations.

The ZCBS comprises several elements for reducing carbon.

  • Demonstrating a building’s annual Zero Carbon Balance
  • Providing a Zero Carbon transition plan for the future
  • Installing a minimum 5% onsite renewable energy design
  • Achieving a Thermal Energy demand-intensity target
  • Reporting of Energy Use intensity and progress achieved
  • Tracking and reporting of Annual Peak energy demands
  • Reporting of Embodied Carbon emissions of the building

Buildings that have achieved a Zero Carbon Balance can earn certification for Zero Carbon Building Performance. Buildings are assessed over a 12-month period and performance must be demonstrated annually (for existing and new buildings).

Green building initiatives span the country from end to end, including buildings that range in size from 20,000 sq. ft. to over 1 million sq. ft. Project types (new and existing buildings) comprise schools, offices, residential, industrial, and warehouses.

As a national initiative, the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program makes every effort to accelerate market transformation, while ensuring that benchmarks and standards are workable, and can be adopted on a wide scale throughout the marketplace.

Residential rebates promoting energy efficiency

The Home Energy Loan Program is a financing program offered in Toronto so homeowners can improve energy efficiency and save on utilities. Retrofits could include furnace replacement or insulation upgrades, both of which reduce energy consumption and lessen GHG emissions.

Union Gas offers homeowner rebates for “energy smart upgrades”. The rebates are designed to offset the upfront cost of upgrades. Over the long-term, with energy consumption much reduced, heating and cooling savings will make for a dramatic difference on monthly home budgets.

Enbridge Gas offers homeowner incentives throughout southern Ontario. Incentives are aimed at improving home energy efficiency; reducing energy consumption; and lessening emission impact on the environment. The energy conservation program is easy to implement and affordable.

The Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario Program is designed to improve access to affordable housing. The program runs till 2020, and applicants are required to make application in order to determine eligibility for funding, depending on the nature of the project undertaken.

Residential or commercial, new construction or renovation, green building standards are the future. And it’s incumbent for homeowners, building owners, and contractors to participate.

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