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Carbon and climate to take centre stage in 2021

With 2020 in the books, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Program is...

With 2020 in the books, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Program is ready to drive accelerated market transformation in 2021.  Last year’s successes are paving the way for another exciting year, facilitated by an increasingly favourable policy environment. Governments at all levels are now pushing towards decarbonization by 2050. At the federal level, policy announcements such as the Greening Government strategy update and the new Climate Action Plan demonstrate how decarbonization is being put into action.

The pace of change is accelerating, and CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building program will help drive the building sector toward carbon reduction, first, through continued adoption of our Zero Carbon Building Standard, but also through education and engagement, research and advocacy. Each of these areas are vital if our sector is to rise to its potential for carbon reductions, a process that will also help drive much needed jobs and innovation.

CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard has proven that zero carbon buildings are technically feasible and financially viable. Adoption is accelerating, and the year 2020 closed with 24 certified buildings, split evenly between ZCB-Design and ZCB-Performance and spanning a wide range of building types.

Zero carbon buildings completed in 2020

Among the standout projects in 2020 were an iconic 68-storey office tower in Toronto, a state-of-the-art firehall in Vancouver, industrial warehouses in Nova Scotia and Quebec, and an arena in Ottawa.

As government programs and financing increasingly target existing buildings, we are excited to see more great retrofit projects achieve certification – such as the MacKimmie Complex Redevelopment at University of Calgary and Lemay’s Phenix project in Montreal.

In 2020, we also saw projects earn their second or third annual ZCB-Performance certifications. Among these repeat performers were the Montreal headquarters of Rayside Labossière architects and Mohawk College’s The Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation.

New ZCB standard updates due spring of 2021

While the market responded well to the updated certification requirements introduced in ZCB Standard v2 (March 2020), we’re already working toward an addendum that will make zero-carbon buildings even more accessible. Due out in the spring, these updates will address additions and attached buildings, as well as clarifying requirements for thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) in new labs, hospitals, and other buildings with excessive heating or ventilation loads.

To achieve decarbonization by 2050, the building sector also needs to focus on education and skills development. While CaGBC works hand in hand with education providers, employers, unions, and other stakeholders through programs like Workforce2030, we’re also producing courses required to upskill for low-carbon buildings. Recently, we launched the Zero Carbon Core Concepts Education program, which provides on-demand access to the foundational knowledge and skills required to successfully deliver a zero carbon project.

This new year promises more attention on zero carbon buildings, and especially zero carbon retrofits. We’re excited about the opportunity for the Zero Carbon Building program to help move the building sector toward low-carbon buildings and practices. By adopting these approaches, our sector will play a significant part in reaching Canada’s carbon reduction targets, while preparing our workforce for the opportunities presented by a low-carbon future.

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