Vancouver sets goal of 20 per cent reduction in energy use in existing buildings

The City of Vancouver is determined to reach its 2020 sustainability goal of zero net energy use and carbon neutrality, said green building program manager Mark Hartman.
The goal is part of a city carbon-emissions reduction plan, which includes reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent in existing buildings.
“We are net zero ready,” Hartman said at the Canada Green Building Council’s national conference in Vancouver recently.
In fact, net zero buildings are already starting to emerge in Vancouver.
“The technology exists now,” said Harman, adding that one of the 2010 Olympic Village condominium buildings is net zero. It uses some energy but at points of the year puts energy back into the grid from its solar panels.
“It is a carbon-neutral building that is not using fossil fuel.”
Greater passive building design
Hartman said he sees greater use of passive building design, more use of solar energy, energy districts, better insulated envelopes, higher levels of insulation, better windows and improved building air tightness.
Passive building designs utilize very little energy due to their dense walls and air tightness while the next generation in sustainable design is the Living Building Challenge such as Vancouver’s VanDusen’s Visitors Centre and UniverCity Childcare Centre in Burnaby.
“Many consider the Living Building Challenge the ultimate in sustainable design,” said Hartman. “It not only requires buildings to create their own energy and treat their own sewage on-site, but it also requires the structure to be built without using a long ‘red list’ of materials that are harmful to the environment.”
The city has used the ASHRAE standard as a reference for energy performance in its building bylaw since the early 1990s, but the 2007 and 2010 versions of the ASHRAE standard have focused on improvements in energy performance.
Hartman said the proposed standard being brought forward to the city’s council for adoption this fall is the ASHRAE 90.1 2010, which is on average a 15 per cent improvement compared to the 2007 version. The city, though, has been encouraging new building design to meet the 2010 ASHRAE standard, he said.
Hartman said he expects there will be yet another bylaw addition needed beyond this fall’s ASHRAE adoption by council in reaching the 2020 goal. The benchmark used is still under consideration.
“It is not known at this time if we will reference ASHRAE, the national building code, or perhaps even a specific energy target in 2020,” he said.
Hartman told conference members that reaching for the 2020 goal has been a long process involving both community and city departmental support.
Changing what it could change
Effecting change began with focusing on things that the city could change. For example, air quality falls under the Metro Vancouver regional district’s jurisdiction.
The city found that greenhouse gas emissions from the city’s buildings contribute 56 per cent to the carbon contributions. The city, said Hartman, has worked to introduce, or plans to introduce, a number of initiatives that will encourage reduced emissions from new and existing buildings.
The latest strategy was integrated into the city’s newly passed policy relating to large sites. The Rezoning Policy for Sustainable Large Developments applies to all new developments over 500,000 square feet.
“It has a list of items including zero waste planning and researching a low carbon energy supply,” said Hartman.
Hartman also pointed to the city’s amended 2011 Higher Building Policy, which provides higher density incentives for developers who surpass the 2010 code energy performance standard by 40-50 per cent.
The city is also using the 2011 LEED Gold Rezoning Policy which requires developers to build to a LEED Gold standard on rezoned sites.
Higher than city bylaws
The standard is higher than current city bylaws, Hartman said.
“For example, the current version requires six energy points, which is 22 per cent better than ASHRAE 90.1 2007, according to the LEED tables. If an update to ASHRAE 90.1 2010 is approved by council this fall, then we will likely ask council to update the policy to a certain amount better than ASHRAE 90.1 2010,” he said.
“However, we are currently consulting with industry if the policy should reference LEED or ASHRAE in regard to efficiency requirements.”
He said the city’s goal is to improve the energy performance of all existing buildings by 20 per cent by 2020.
“This means we need to work with partners such as utilities to offer a wide range of incentive programs for all building types including multi-family, commercial, retail, and industrial,” he said.
“The city is currently working on a building renewal plan that may include 20 or 30 different actions to help homeowners and businesses reduce the energy use in buildings.”
Previous programs have already impacted emissions with today’s GHG being below what was measured in 1990, although the city has increased in population.
A challenge lies in identifying what improvements can be gained in older building retrofits.
“You are really selling the effectiveness of the retrofit program,” he told delegates.
Five times the amount
Hartman said that one city study of 39 high-rises showed that some could have five times the amount GHG per square metre than others. While the buildings looked similar and were built in the same era, they had different energy bills because they employed different lighting, heating and hot water systems.
Hartman said he believes the city will be aided in its efforts to reach its 2020 goals by moving closer to an outcome-based building code in 2015-16 that will emphasize hitting targets rather than setting prescribed solutions.
“The outcome-based code which describes a maximum energy use gives the greatest opportunity and flexibility to developers as compared to a prescriptive code,” Hartman said. “The building industry is also moving this way in North America.
“The national building code for 2015 is currently looking at a set energy target, and ASHRAE has also indicated their move to outcome-based codes (with a set energy target depending on the building type) in the future.”


Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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