If Ottawa plans to follow through on its goal to help slow global warming, it will have to take a hard look at its buildings.
With seemingly inexorable growth due to the cushioning of government, occupancy in city buildings – especially in the commercial sector – just keeps growing, according to a report by SENES Consultants Limited. Air Quality Across the City of Ottawa was prepared for the city in March 2007.
With more engineers, scientists and PhDs per capita than any other city in the country, Ottawa is one of only five Canadian cities expected to post positive growth this year according to the Conference Board of Canada.
“The increase in emissions in community buildings can be attributed to … increased hours of operation, higher “plug” load (mainly computers and office equipment), and a greater resultant load on space conditioning systems, thereby increasing both electricity and natural gas usage,” reads the report.
Add to this the fact that the nation’s capital has some of the most inefficient buildings in the country, emitting 58 per cent of the city’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
The nationwide average, by comparison, is 35 per cent according to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
With major suburbs sprawling to the east and west, surprisingly, transportation accounts for just 36 per cent of citywide emissions.
The report explains that as electricity prices rose in the mid to late 1990s, many building owners switched over to natural gas.
“SENES concluded that this increase in (greenhouse gas emissions) from the use of natural gas (is due to) the high increase in natural gas consumption in Ontario specially when some buildings in the city of Ottawa were switched from electricity to natural gas,” reads the report, citing a rise in petroleum fuelled vehicles. “(The rise was also likely) caused by an increase in natural gas use per capita in the city, an increase in floor space in the industrial and commercial sectors as well as an increase in population.”
Ottawa isn’t the only city with building woes. New York City’s some 950,000 buildings are responsible for 79 per cent of its greenhouse gases. The massive number was April 2007 when the city peformed an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the U.S. building sector also accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
CITY OF OTTAWA
The city of Ottawa, as a corporate entity, is leading the way in a city with a pollution problem.
Despite significant growth, the city managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in its buildings by nine per cent from 1990 to 2004.
Since then, the city has gone even further by requiring all new municipal buildings (bigger than 500 square metres) meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) basic certification standards.