Ask the Expert: Sustainability consultant Lyle Scott talks about the evolution of energy efficiency and the National Energy Code

1. Tell us about your career and how you ended up being involved in sustainability and green building?

In the 1990s sustainability was primarily about energy efficiency. My career in sustainability started with the management of performance contracts in the healthcare sector where the savings from energy upgrades were guaranteed by the energy services provider.

I really liked that hospitals were able to make needed upgrades to their facilities that in some cases were entirely financed by the resulting energy savings – I was hooked! Since then I've benefited from a wide range of experiences including managing the Hospital for Sick Children, to working for a developer introducing leading-edge sustainability technologies to the single and multi-residential and office sectors, to sustainability consulting in nearly every building type in many of the regions across the country.

2. What do you do in your current position with Footprint (a sustainable design firm launched by Smith + Andersen – one of Canada’s leading engineering firms)?

Footprint's priority is to understand our client's objectives and align the sustainability efforts with the larger project mandate. Our objective isn't to push sustainability – it's to provide an informed perspective of the sustainability opportunities and considerations for each decision that the project faces. As a sustainability consultant, our role is to act as a catalyst – to ask the right questions and put forward solutions that advance the overall project vision.

3. You have 20 years experience in the industry. What are some of the trends that stand out in your mind?

Initially sustainability was all about "bolt on" solutions that could be justified by energy savings. Energy efficiency was an afterthought and sustainability rarely looked beyond energy efficiency. When LEED was launched in Canada in 2005 it was often difficult to find many things that we now take for granted like low-VOC paints, ERVs, or green roof installers. LEED changed the market dramatically.

Some of the early LEED projects helped bring higher levels of energy performance and sustainability to the mainstream and created the precedents that acted as catalysts for municipal initiatives such as the Toronto Green Standard that have raised the bar for the entire industry. Now some clients are demanding performance that goes beyond LEED such as Mandatory and Annual Energy Targets that specify a required energy performance threshold that must be achieved. I'm looking forward to LEED again changing the industry with the introduction of Life Cycle Analysis and Environmental Product Declarations with LEED v4.

4. You are involved in the national energy code and building code energy efficiency. Where do you think building codes are headed in terms of sustainability?

Industry is demanding quantifiable metrics for energy efficiency. That's why the National Energy Code for Buildings 2015 is scheduled to introduce Energy Use Intensity (EUI) Targets as a compliance path. This will allow design teams the flexibility to come up with creative solutions while remaining focused on a quantifiable energy target. EUI is also easy to explain to clients. It is critical that we as sustainability professionals become very fluent with Energy Use Intensity (EUI) targets.

5. Where do you think the future of green building is headed in the immediate or more long-term future?

Three trends come to mind:

  • Severe storm events will make resiliency a mainstream design focus;
  • Existing buildings will focus on EUI as regulations or industry initiatives create increasing transparency for energy reporting; and
  • "Big data" will be a focus as we start to harness the incredible volumes of data that is available from our buildings.

6. Is there anything you'd like to add that you think our audience would find useful?

There isn't a silver bullet – a single measure or initiative that will solve our problems. Instead it will be many things done better that will create truly sustainable buildings. A design approach that facilitates ongoing collaboration between owners, designers, contractors and the end users is the secret to success.