Ask the Expert: Paulina Czajkowski discusses the evolving zero carbon building market

Driven by a passion for sustainability, Paulina Czajkowski has more than a decade of experience collaborating with engineers, architects, and building owners on the design, construction, and operation of sustainable, high-performance buildings.

With zero carbon buildings, green building frameworks, and benchmarks among her areas of focus, Paulina was also part of the project team for evolv1, the first-ever Zero Carbon Building – Design certified project under CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard. Paulina reflects on the evolution of the low-carbon building market since the launch of the Standard.

1. Tell us about your career and how you came to be involved in the sustainability field.

I’ve always felt drawn to the concept of sustainable development. My mom is an architect and my dad is an engineer, so you could say that I am pursuing the “family business,” but with my own special focus. Shortly after finishing engineering school, I joined Stantec, where I was given the opportunity to turn my passion into a career. More than 10 years later, I’ve never looked back.

Paulina Czajkowski Sustainablilty Lead Stantec

2. You were involved in evolv1, Canada’s first-ever project to be certified under CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard. What was it like to be part of that project and how has the industry changed since then?

Being part of the evolv1 team was truly a special experience. evolv1 was a pioneering project that demonstrated that an economically viable zero carbon building is possible. What’s changed since evolv1 is the increase in market interest in zero carbon buildings.

3. CaGBC has just launched Zero Carbon Building Standard v2, with a greater focus on embodied carbon and refrigerants, encouraging innovation, and more energy efficiency options for different design strategies. What are some of the key highlights for you of the new version of the Standard?

I’m pleased to see that the Standard now takes a more holistic approach to a building’s carbon footprint. It now considers not only emissions associated with energy consumption during operations, but also brings embodied carbon and fugitive emissions (refrigerant leakage) into the conversation. This will incent owners and project teams to consider lower-impact building materials and refrigerants with zero global warming potential.

4. What sort of role do you think low-carbon building practices will play in the future of the green building industry?

Given the urgency required to take action on climate change and meet our national emissions reduction targets, we will have to continue to decarbonize our building stock. I think that low-carbon building practices will continue to dominate the green building industry in the future.

"evolv1 was a pioneering project that demonstrated that an economically viable zero carbon building is possible. What’s changed since evolv1 is the increase in market interest in zero carbon buildings."

5. What are some of the best practices and strategies you have seen for reducing emissions during design and construction?

Every building project is unique and has its own physical and financial constraints, so the answer to this question varies. Design approaches vary by region as well, driven by aspects such as climate and local electricity grid emissions intensity and costs. But a universal tenet of sustainable, low-carbon design is integration of passive strategies. These also play an important role when we start looking at building resilience.

6. Where do you see the green building industry evolving in the next five to 10 years?

I think we’ll see an increased focus on decarbonizing existing buildings, and continued development of building technologies, products, and materials that will drive down the cost of low-carbon, green building.