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CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard V2 ‘raises the bar’

More buildings across Canada will be able to move to zero carbon faster due to updated standards...

IMAGE: The Zero Carbon Building Standard v2 has been released by the Canada Green Building Council.

The Zero Carbon Building Standard v2 has been released by the Canada Green Building Council.

More buildings across Canada will be able to move to zero carbon faster due to updated standards from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).

Version Two of the Zero Carbon Building Standard (ZCB Standard v2) was recently released to fast-track carbon reductions.

“It’s raised the bar on rigour, while maintaining the flexibility that Version One has, so that you get as many elements as possible to zero,” said CaGBC manager of zero carbon Fin MacDonald.

ZCB Standard v2 provides more options for different design strategies by recognizing high-quality carbon offsets when necessary, plus new tools to help design zero-carbon buildings and measure results.

For design standards, “we’ve taken our existing target, which is a thermal energy target, and we’ve created three new pathways to demonstrate compliance with energy efficiency,” MacDonald said. “They’ll all have that thermal target, but one of them is now supplemented with a total-energy-use target.”

Potential greenhouse gas reductions

Research from CaGBC indicates a 17 per cent reduction in building sector greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by constructing new large buildings to zero-carbon standards. A further 51 per cent reduction is possible by retrofitting existing buildings using zero carbon practices.

“The other thing we wanted to do with Version Two was to expand the scope of the emissions,” said MacDonald.

Version One focused on emissions associated with energy use.

“We did have a mandatory requirement to report the embodied carbon, which is the emissions associated with the manufacturing and construction, maintenance, and end of life of the building,” he explained.

Version Two takes it a step further, including embodied carbon in the zero-carbon balance “so you have to take responsibility for that carbon as well.” 

MacDonald said that means:

* Reducing carbon as much as possible. 

* Starting your analysis very early during design “so that you can start to look at how you can reduce that.”

* Studying measures and reporting on measures.

* Using avoided emissions such as offsets “to reduce that to zero.”

Zero Carbon Building Standard projects

More than 20 real-world ZCB-projects including schools, offices, commercial offices, and industrial buildings acted as models in formulating Version 2. The original Zero Carbon Buildings Standard launched to the public in October 2017.

The updates are guiding more owners and developers to build to zero now and as part of their plans for the future.

“There is no time to waste or reason to wait. Zero-carbon buildings represent the best opportunity for cost-effective emissions reductions today,” said CaGBC president and CEO Thomas Mueller in announcing the update. “The changes we’ve made give the industry and government a clear path to show carbon leadership with positive climate action that future-proofs buildings, encourages innovation, and drives job growth.”

The standard has been applied to buildings across the country.

“We’ve got 11 certified projects right now, about 30 more projects are registered,” MacDonald said.  “There’s probably about 60 out there that we’re tracking, that haven’t registered yet, that are (in) various stages of early design that are considering the standard.

“For a program that’s only two years old, I think that’s pretty good.” 

Projects are spread out across Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, B.C. and Alberta.

MacDonald points out these are “very high-performance buildings.”

Consultations across Canada

The update was a group effort, MacDonald said, noting CaGBC engaged with 16 pilot projects across the country and “some early adopters that weren’t part of that pilot project.”

Roundtables were held in four major cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal, specifically focusing on zero carbon. Events in the Atlantic provinces were “a little bit broader but also had elements of zero carbon,” he said. 

CaGBC wanted “to listen to what people had to say about how you design and build these things and then the regional challenges and opportunities that project teams face, and then take all that feedback and create a better, more robust version of the standard that is still easy to use, still flexible, and gets more buildings to zero faster.” 

Synopsis of what’s new

ZCB Standard v2 provides two pathways for any type of building to get to zero carbon. ZCB-Design guides the design of new buildings, as well as the retrofit of existing structures. ZCB-Performance provides a framework for verifying buildings have achieved zero carbon and must be revisited annually.

Updates focus on these key components:

* Embodied Carbon: Projects must now reduce and offset carbon emissions for the building’s life-cycle, including those associated with the manufacture and use of construction materials.

* Refrigerants: ZCB Standard v2 encourages best practices to minimize potential leaks of refrigerants that, when released, can have significant short-term impacts on climate.

* Energy Efficiency: ZCB Standard v2 promotes the efficient use of clean energy with more stringent energy efficiency and airtightness requirements.

* Innovation: ZCB-Design encourages innovation by requiring projects demonstrate two innovative strategies to reduce carbon emissions.


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