Made-In-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan identifies buildings as key climate change strategy

On behalf of our members, the CaGBC Manitoba Chapter commends the Made in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan for its recommendations to:

  1. Advance green building standards for government-owned buildings;
  2. Increase energy efficiency requirements through building codes; and
  3. Undertake retro-commissioning and deep retrofits for the commercial building sector.

The work generated through building upgrades will create job opportunities, drive the development of new technology, and contribute to our economy. This opportunity represents a true merger of the environment and the economy.

1. Advance green building standards for government-owned buildings

In order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our buildings, the Province must dramatically accelerate energy efficiency improvements. The Manitoba Government can help public and private building owners achieve significant emission reductions by holding government-owned buildings to high performance standards. A commitment to sustainable, low carbon solutions would accelerate the commercial development of goods and services, as well as de-risk the pathway for widespread market adoption of green building technology in the Province.

Renew the commitment to use green building standards in government buildings

The government should renew its commitment to established green building standards, such as LEED, for new government-owned and funded buildings to achieve energy performance and environmental outcomes and develop new requirements for existing buildings.

Buildings need to be looked at holistically for their full environmental impact and the opportunities they present, so they can contribute to Manitoba becoming Canada’s cleanest, greenest, and most climate resilient province. High-performing green building rating systems like LEED have led the market in adopting higher performance standards for energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and additional environmental and occupant benefits.

LEED buildings use on average 30 per cent less energy, and LEED advances building performance voluntarily above building code requirements, driving the industry to improve over time by providing performance steps that go from minimum requirements to Net Zero Energy ready buildings.

Although energy efficiency is a key cornerstone of green building, LEED also addresses other sustainability issues reflected in the Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, such as water conservation, storm water management, and habitat protection.

Showcase application of the zero carbon standard in strategic government buildings

Progress towards a low GHG emissions building sector can be widespread through measures targeted at new construction projects to accelerate reductions. Zero carbon buildings are the next frontier for the low carbon economy and will future proof the building stock in a carbon- constrained economy. If all new large buildings over 25,000 ft² were built to achieve zero carbon performance between now and 2030, Canada could reduce emissions from the sector by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, or 7.5 megatonnes (Mt) annually by 2030 (CaGBC, 2016).

Low-carbon and zero carbon technology for new and existing buildings is available in the market today in the form of high-efficiency heat pumps, geothermal systems, high-performance glazing, and on-site photovoltaic energy systems, to name just some of the technology available. The costs for these technologies have decreased dramatically, providing an opportunity for Manitobans and businesses to switch to low carbon fuel sources and reduce their energy costs and GHG emissions.

The Government of Manitoba can signal leadership and deploy its purchasing power to buy zero carbon technology in bulk, accelerating the commercial development of these goods and services and driving their uptake in the commercial and institutional market. To do this, the government should adopt a zero carbon standard for key government-owned buildings to demonstrate how these technologies can be deployed to achieve the maximum amount of GHG emissions reductions possible from buildings.

The CaGBC Manitoba Chapter will continue our work with the Government of Manitoba to advance Manitoba’s green building standards for zero carbon requirements for new construction, and to renew and strengthen their commitment to LEED certification in government-owned and funded buildings.

2. Increase energy efficiency requirements through building codes

The building sector presents an exceptional opportunity to reduce GHG emissions drastically at the lowest cost, while developing the economy (UNEP, 2009). Canada’s green building sector is one of the most advanced in the world and is well-positioned to drive the transformation to a low-carbon economy (ACEEE, 2016).

Building code amendments can help drive market transformation towards higher performing buildings and houses by establishing progressive energy performance targets toward zero carbon buildings that leverage the success of established, high-performing building standards such as LEED.

Building code amendments can also activate retrofits in the existing building stock by triggering energy efficiency upgrades in buildings undertaking substantive renovations. Energy conservation and efficiency are critical components of a strategy to reduce GHG emissions from buildings. However, there is also a need for mechanisms that direct the building industry towards low and zero carbon energy choices and building designs.

Building code changes tackling energy efficiency will not be sufficient to reach the required GHG emissions reductions in the building sector. Energy efficiency will generally, but not always, lead to reduced GHG emissions. Without a greenhouse gas intensity emission metric (GHGI), reductions in carbon from buildings are likely to be incremental.

To achieve the large reductions in GHG emissions required from building design and retrofit decisions, the Government of Manitoba should consider including a GHGI metric in addition to energy efficiency performance metrics where possible. Using a GHGI metric with other measures that encourage high energy performance and sustainable building design will help drive choices about the types of energy that are used in buildings, and promote decarbonization through electrification to leverage Manitoba’s clean electricity grid, as well as on-site renewable energy generation in buildings.

3. Undertake retro-commissioning and deep retrofits for the commercial building sector

Research shows that 80 per cent of existing buildings will still be standing in 2030. In order for the building sector to achieve its share of the 30 per cent GHG emissions reductions target by 2030 in Canada, recommissioning to optimize building systems for improved control and operational performance is necessary, alongside deep retrofits to ensure that key building systems such as lighting, HVAC, and envelopes are upgraded to achieve high energy performance.

CaGBC research shows that the two actions recommended by the Manitoba Government in their Climate Plan, recommissioning and deep retrofits, could reduce GHG emissions by 120,000,000 tonnes in Manitoba if implemented in buildings over 25,000 square feet. Additional GHG emissions reductions of 100,000,000 tonnes can be achieved in existing buildings through fuel switching away from natural gas. This is especially important for Manitoba since most GHG emissions from large buildings in the province can be attributed to the use of natural gas to heat buildings. Carbon pricing is an important strategy to support fuel switching of buildings by decreasing the operating cost differences between natural gas and electricity in Manitoba.

In order to strategically target poor performing buildings, the Government of Manitoba should implement a province-wide energy benchmarking program to gain a more detailed understanding of building performance in Manitoba. A lack of data and data transparency are consistent challenges that can inhibit the success of energy conservation policies and programs.

With benchmarking data, owners can make informed decisions about how to manage and operate their buildings, and where it would be beneficial from a cost and energy savings standpoint to strategically invest and implement improvements to buildings. By targeting activity to select buildings and building segments, recommissioning, deep retrofits, and fuel switching can achieve a 25 per cent reduction in GHG emissions in Manitoba’s large buildings by 2030.

With its clean electricity grid, Manitoba is uniquely positioned to lead on its climate change and environmental commitments. We look forward to working with the Manitoba Government as they move to the implementation phase of their Made in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.

To learn more about the state of green building in Manitoba, its ability to spur economic growth, and the CaGBC’s ongoing advocacy work, visit