CaGBC event examines Canadian green building issues

Recent Canadian experiences in advanced green building projects were discussed at a May 17 Canada Green Building Council breakfast event at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York hotel.

CaGBC EventLuka Matutinovic, WSP’s director of national performance, analysis, sustainability and energy, talked about strategies for delivering proven performance through energy modeling, measurement and verification (M&V) and commissioning.

“For the most part, we’re still building to code,” he said. “There seems to be a decline in the use of energy modeling even though energy modeling can get way more performance out of any given project.”

Matutinovic said there needs to be more integrative performance modeling with green buildings, as most modeling today is for compliance to codes instead of for performance. Early decisions can lock you into a path that you can’t get out of, which can prove costly, he added.

Matutinovic also stressed the importance of integrated building systems to increase performance.

“If we continue to think of buildings in terms of design disciplines and specification sections, then that’s what we’re going to get,” he said. “We really need to shift the designing of buildings to a system of systems.”

Insufficient life cycle costing

Matutinovic said not enough life cycle costing is being done, and the cost of carbon generally isn’t factored in when it is. He said carbon needs to be factored in and has to be priced higher than it is.

Commissioning is the process of assuring all systems and components of a building are designed, installed, tested, operated and maintained according to the operational requirements of the owner or final client. Matutinovic believes it’s being done fairly well, but could still be better, particularly on an ongoing basis after construction is completed.

Measurement and verification (M&V) quantifies a conservation measure’s precise impact on energy use. It puts numbers to a difficult-to-quantify process and makes it easy to calculate the economic impact of an investment. Matutinovic thinks it’s generally lacking in most building projects.

“We’re not really pricing M&V into it. When we do, we’re not commissioning M&V systems like we commission boilers and chillers. And we’re not sticking around long enough to make sure that it works.

“If we get it right, that performance gap that everybody complains about starts going away.”

BGIS and PSPC’s work on federal buildings

Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (BGIS) is working closely with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to implement aggressive measures to reduce the environmental impact of facilities owned by the federal government across the country.

The goal is to reduce carbon in federal buildings by 80 per cent by 2050, while PSPC would like its facilities to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Out of some 360 buildings owned by PSPC, 50 of them are responsible for 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. A focus, therefore, is being placed on them.

BGIS is targeting its efforts on such areas as data centre efficiency, LED lighting, retro-commissioning, smart buildings, deep retrofits, fuel switching, solar panels, battery storage, innovation, tenant engagement and smart grids.

“The scale of what we’re doing is astronomical,” said BGIS national energy director Daniel Gosselin, who emphasized the importance of leveraging existing technologies while exploring emerging technologies to improve results.

Understanding operational challenges and having detailed audits and studies, integrated design systems, high-quality construction and commissioning, and optimized operations are all needed for a project to be successful.

Gosselin stressed the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration among all stakeholders to achieve aggressive greenhouse gas emission reductions while maintaining long-term fiscal responsibility.  

Gosselin said the major hammer BGIS holds is its request for proposals when it hires consultants for projects. Its decisions are based 90 per cent on anticipated results and 10 per cent on fees.

“We don’t want fees to be a deciding factor,” said Gosselin. “There’s no room for failure.”

Lessons learned at Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation

Mohawk College’s Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation in Hamilton recently earned the first institutional and second overall Zero Carbon Building Design certification from the CaGBC. 

EllisDon was the project developer and just released its “The Journey to Net Zero Energy” report that outlines key success strategies for zero carbon projects.

EllisDon global director of sustainable building services Andrew Bowerbank revealed this “Top 10” list of recommended priorities to achieving net zero energy through what was learned with the Joyce Centre project:

1. Communication is key;
2. Create a “net zero team.” There’s a need to understand each team member’s expertise and ensure that everyone grasps the targets and objectives being aimed for;
3. Apply integrated design;
4. Prioritize the wish list. You need to know what’s most important and not just what would be nice to have;
5. Incorporate building automation systems. “If you’re going to build something with this type of high performance, you need the mechanisms to communicate with your building,” said Bowerbank;
6. Manage procurement. There’s a need to know current market conditions and what materials are available, as well as to have a well-organized tendering process. “We need to have the right people, technologies and materials ready to go,” said Bowerbank;
7. Engage contractors and trades in the development process. “We need them to be just as proud of the project as everyone else involved,” said Bowerbank;
8. Focus on the energy budget. “This cannot be sacrificed to any degree,” said Bowerbank. “It’s just as important as construction costs”;
9. Engage tenants in operational efficiency targets;
10. Knowledge sharing from cradle to grave. Outcomes need to be recorded and shared so that future projects can adopt successful practices.

Investor Confidence Project

Advanced Energy Centre at MaRS Discovery District senior associate Shawn Peterson talked about the Investor Confidence Project and its Investor Ready Energy Efficiency certification.

Sustainable Biz Canada interviewed Peterson and CaGBC director of advocacy and development Akua Schatz about the Investor Confidence Project earlier this year. Read the article here.

Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot…

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Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot…

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