The Canada Green Building Council is upping the ante in its fight to curb carbon emissions.
At its national summit in Montreal on Wednesday, June 10, the CaGBC unveiled a new program for designers, owners and developers aiming to maximize the efficiency of their buildings while protecting the environment.
Green Up – still in the pilot stage – offers tools, performance standards and resources that allow participants to track and benchmark their energy and water usage online while planning environmental upgrades.
“Buildings have a huge impact on the environment,” said Thomas Mueller, president of the CaGBC, adding that they account for about 30 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. “This sector is ready to make improvements.”
The CaGBC has discovered that buildings – from commercial to government – seem to be going green on their own. Median energy usage dropped by five per cent from 2005 to 2007 among 53 commercial buildings participating in the pilot program. Similar trends were seen in government buildings and schools. Fifty one government buildings dropped their median energy usage by five per cent. Schools, 106 of them, dropped a median of 2.5 per cent.
“Benchmarking is extraordinarily powerful,” said Ian Jarvis, president of Enerlife Consulting and former chair of the CaGBC. “This is the first indication that we are going in the right direction.”
Surprisingly, it wasn't the newest buildings that ranked the highest. Two top performing commercial buildings were actually built in the 1980s and 1930s.
“Age is not a predeterminate factor (for) energy efficiency,” said Jarvis.
“Many iconic buildings found themselves way down the list,” he said, without naming names.
Unlike other benchmarking tools, Green Up puts buildings on a level playing field, factoring in things like occupancy and usage.
It will also allow the CaGBC to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Canada's building stock. Jarvis said Green Up will eventually highlight case studies of the best and most improved buildings as a lesson for the rest.
The good news: “The good are getting better and the bad are rapidly catching up,” said Jarvis.
The bad: “Even the top performing buildings have lots of room to improve.”
It’s time to take a “building-centric” to carbon emission reductions, said Mueller. The expertise and technology is already there.
It's a “no regret” plan for building owners and operators, who are bound to find monthly savings and increased consumer interest, he said.
“In a very short period of time you will see (environmental performance) affecting how your building is valued in the market,” said Mueller. More and more, tenants are choosing “smarter” buildings and they're willing to pay a premium for it, he said.
The CaGBC's current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs are aimed at the top quarter of the market – the businesses that want to be seen as leaders and can readily afford the costly upgrades. Green Up will help to draw in the rest.
“You have to deal with the 75 per cent of the existing building stock,” said Mueller.
It will also offer the same tools to everyday Canadians, helping them make improvements to their homes.
The CaGBC has an ambitious goal. By 2015, they hope to engage 100,000 businesses and one million homes to cut energy and water waste by 50 per cent below 2005 levels.