The first results of the Canada Green Building Council‘s (CaGBC) Disclosure Challenge and its five voluntary participants show how far Canada’s commercial real estate industry must still go to significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings.
Its volunteer participants agree the top-line results in Full Disclosure: Industry Leadership on Transparency, reinforce the importance of industry-wide requirements for data transparency. This has CaGBC and Challenge participants QuadReal, Triovest Realty Advisors, Concert Properties, Colliers International and Minto Group calling on federal and provincial governments for consistent building data disclosure regulations.
CaGBC: Canada must “catch up”
“Canada clearly needs to catch up quickly when it comes to benchmarking, reporting, and disclosing data,” said Thomas Mueller, CEO and president of CaGBC, in a release this week. “Access to building performance data has enabled owners in other jurisdictions to make more informed choices about investing in retrofits.
“Canadian markets require data transparency to drive investment in efficiency programs and create demand for higher-performing buildings.”
Only 46 per cent of the buildings reporting to the Disclosure Challenge could provide all the data required, with significant gaps in the retail, warehouse, and industrial sectors. This illustrates the difficulty facing even motivated building owners and managers such as these participants.
“The establishment of a national property benchmarking program will standardize data disclosure and ultimately help achieve enhanced building performance and improved outcomes for all stakeholders, including our communities, clients and occupants.” said Nicky Arthur, Colliers’ energy and sustainability manager, in the release.
In comparison with NRCan average site energy use intensity values, office buildings participating in the Challenge performed approximately 10 per cent better than the average office in Canada. Multiresidential buildings were about even with the average.
Disclosure Challenge a Canadian first
While energy benchmarking regulations are in effect in Ontario, the Challenge is the first time real estate owners have voluntarily disclosed Canada-wide portfolio data.
“The Disclosure Challenge results demonstrate that without clear government mandates like those in Ontario, it is challenging to access enough data to enable policymakers and regulators to monitor how buildings across their jurisdictions are performing and assess the impacts of energy and GHG emissions reduction policies,” said Brian McCauley, the president and CEO of Concert Properties, in the release. “We need that information in order to be able to ensure we are succeeding in lowering our GHG emissions.”
What the CaGBC calls an “urgent need” for that data prompted it to launch the Disclosure Challenge in March 2019. Since then the participants have disclosed energy use, GHG emissions, and water use data from over 700 buildings.
Collectively, they oversee upwards of $50 billion in managed real estate assets. That’s about 10 per cent of the estimated value of large real estate holdings held by private and public entities in Canada.
The data encompasses over 11 million square meters of space in buildings from Victoria to Halifax including offices, warehouses, residential apartment buildings and retail shops.
“Our participation helped highlight changes we could make at the building level to improve performance and indicates to us the value of sharing our information, experiences and lessons learned with the industry as a whole,” said George Van Noten, the senior vice president of property operations at Minto.
Energy use well short of new standards
Average energy use intensity for office and multi-residential buildings in the Challenge were 286kWh/m2 and 256 kWh/m2 respectively. When compared to high-performance efficiency standards for new buildings coming into force in different jurisdictions (with a standard of 100 kWh/m2), the reporting office buildings were 65 per cent less efficient and multi-residential buildings 61 per cent less efficient.
GHG Emissions intensity varied across the country and was generally correlated with the electricity supply grid intensity. Thus, office buildings in Alberta were as high as 170 kgCO2e/m2 and apartments in British Columbia as low as 24 kgCO2e/m2.
“When utility data is not available in a standardized digital format, customers cannot easily access and analyze valuable energy and water consumption information,” said Philippe Bernier, the vice president of innovation and sustainability for Triovest, in the release. “Until a standard is adopted, individual Canadians, governments and organizations like Triovest will continue to be hampered in their benchmarking initiatives and efficiency pursuits due to the difficulties associated with accessing a digital view on performance.”
The detailed information disclosed to the Challenge is available via an online data visualization tool available on CaGBC.org.
Why it matters
The United Nations says buildings account for nearly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and in Vancouver and Toronto buildings contribute to approximately 50 per cent of each city’s total emissions.
For Canada to reach its emissions reduction targets and transition to a low-carbon economy over the next decade it is essential that existing buildings achieve significant energy efficiency improvements. One of the barriers to meeting these goals is the current lack of publicly available data on commercial building performance in Canada.
Energy benchmarking and data transparency programs are already being successfully implemented by owners and operators in cities across the United States, Europe and Australia. Governments and owners use this data to set performance baselines, identify efficiency opportunities, reduce GHG emissions, and meet environmental targets.
“Through the Disclosure Challenge, you see five real estate companies that are not only voluntarily pledging to be transparent about our building data, but are also demonstrating a commitment to the responsible management of our assets and, ultimately, to energy and emissions reductions,” said Jamie Gray-Donald, senior vice president, sustainability at QuadReal, in the release.
“We encourage more companies to join and disclose.”