ZCB Standard – Information & Resources

CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard is the new measure of green building innovation.

Carbon emissions represent the true climatic impact of buildings. Only by focusing on emissions during design, and assessing emissions once in operation, can we ensure the low-carbon outcomes Canada needs.

The ZCB Standard provides pathways for both new and existing buildings to reach zero carbon, and certification offers recognition for industry leaders. With ZCB Standard v2, focus is on the carbon balance of a building across its life-cycle, including construction and operation. It is applicable to all buildings except homes and small multi-family residential buildings . A recent addendum to ZCB Standard v2 expands applicability for additions and attached buildings and offers allowances for buildings in climate zone 7 or 8, or those with unique heating or ventilation loads.


ZCB Standard v2

ZCB Standard v2 incorporates learnings from real-world projects including existing and new buildings such as schools, multi-unit residential buildings, commercial and industrial buildings. Updates to the ZCB Standard provide the rigour needed to ensure zero emissions – and the flexibility to encourage widespread adoption of zero carbon buildings.

Important updates include:

  • Requirement to offset embodied carbon and refrigerants
  • Multiple energy efficiency paths to choose from, with options for buildings in climate zones 7 and 8, or buildings with unique needs
  • Airtightness testing
  • Recognition of carbon offsets
  • Requirement for impactful and innovative technologies and design approaches
  • New and improved tools and resources

Specific requirements for design and performance

ZCB–Design Standard

The ZCB-Design Standard provides requirements that guide the design of new buildings and the retrofit of existing ones, to best empower buildings to achieve zero carbon operations. For ZCB-Design v2 certification, design must carefully consider embodied carbon, refrigerants and airtightness.

ZCB–Performance Standard

The ZCB-Performance Standard verifies that buildings achieve Zero Carbon operations year after year. Verification is required annually. For ZCB-Performance v2 certification, carbon offsets are used to compensate for refrigerant leaks and the embodied carbon of any new structural and envelope materials.


Comparing Pathways

    ZCB-Design v2
One-time certification for new
buildings and major renovations
ZCB-Performance v2
Annual certification for existing buildings
Carbon Zero carbon balance Model zero carbon balance Achieve zero carbon balance
Embodied carbon Report embodied carbon Offset embodied carbon
Refrigerants Report total quantity Offset any leaks
RECs and carbon offsets Provide quote Provide proof of purchase
Onsite combustion Provide transition plan Update plan every 5 years
Energy Energy efficiency Meet one of three approaches Report EUI
Peak demand Report seasonal peaks Report seasonal peaks
Airtightness Report and justify modelled value Conduct testing if ZCB-Design v2 certified
Impact and Innovation Apply two strategies No requirement

Project Resources


Access the standard and tools to help your project achieve certification.


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