The CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Program:
The new measure of green building innovation in Canada

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CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard is Canada’s first green building program to make carbon emissions the key indicator for building performance.

Accounting for energy sources

Recognizing the choice of fuels and the carbon intensity of regional electrical grids is critical to accurately assessing environmental impacts and guiding investments. The Zero Carbon Building program reinforces the importance of energy efficiency while also driving careful choices about the types of energy used and encouraging more renewable energy generation both on the building site and offsite.

Broadly applicable

Developed to be broadly applicable, the Standard can be used by new and existing commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings across the country. To test applicability and inform further development of the Standard, CaGBC is working with 16 diverse projects across Canada as part of the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program.


About the Program

CaGBC Zero
Carbon Building


Zero Carbon
Building Pilot Projects

Zero Carbon


ZCB Project Resources

Updated! ZCB

New! Energy Modelling Guidelines

New! Marketing your Zero Carbon project


Technical Details

Zero Carbon Building – Design certification

The Zero Carbon Building Standard provides a path for both new and existing buildings to reach zero carbon, with unique requirements for each. New construction projects earn Zero Carbon Building – Design certification by modeling a zero carbon balance, highly efficient envelope and ventilation systems to meet a defined threshold for thermal energy demand intensity, and onsite renewable energy systems capable of providing a minimum of 5% of building energy consumption. Project teams are required to evaluate energy use holistically, including impacts on peak electricity, and determine the GHG emissions associated with structural and envelope materials.

Zero Carbon Building – Performance certification

At its heart, the program is about demonstrating a zero carbon balance in building operations year after year. Buildings that achieve a zero carbon balance and meet the other requirements for existing buildings earn Zero Carbon Building - Performance certification. This certification is awarded based on a twelve month period of operations, and performance must be verified annually. Project teams are required to evaluate energy use holistically, including impacts on peak electricity, and determine the GHG emissions associated with structural and envelope materials. Recognizing the inherent challenges to retrofitting existing buildings, this certification does not require a minimum of onsite renewable energy or a minimum level of thermal energy demand performance.

Requirements of the Standard

(new construction)
ZCB- Performance
(existing buildings)
Demonstrate Zero Carbon Balance checkmark icon checkmark icon
Provide Zero Carbon Transition Plan* checkmark icon Every 5 years
Install Minimum 5% Onsite Renewable Energy checkmark icon No requirement
Achieve Thermal Energy Demand Intensity Target checkmark icon No requirement
Report Energy Use Intensity checkmark icon checkmark icon
Report Peak Demand checkmark icon checkmark icon
Report Embodied Carbon checkmark icon checkmark icon

  1. Demonstration of Annual Zero Carbon Balance
    Central to the program requirements, GHG emissions associated with building operations must be offset with low-carbon renewable energy, either generated onsite or procured through a contractual arrangement.

  2. Providing a Zero Carbon Transition Plan
    All applicants who rely on onsite combustion of fuels other than zero emissions biofuels must provide a transition plan to demonstrate how the building will decarbonize in the future, showing that they have considered appropriate building design or retrofit measures.

  3. Installing a Minimum of Five Percent Onsite Renewable Energy
    ZCB-Design certification requires that at least five per cent of the building’s total energy consumption be met using renewable energy that is generated onsite. This requirement does not apply to ZCB-Performance certification.

  4. Achieving a Thermal Energy Demand Intensity Target
    Thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) refers to the annual heat loss from a building’s envelope and ventilation, after accounting for all passive heat gains and losses. Specific TEDI targets for ZCB-Design certification have been set, which results in greater resilience and occupant comfort, while ensuring that building designers focus on minimizing a building’s demand for energy prior to producing or procuring renewable energy.

  5. Reporting of Energy Use Intensity
    The ZCB Standard requires applicants to report their Energy Use Intensity (EUI) to provide transparency and enable the industry to learn from each zero carbon building. Reporting EUI also enables the operators of a building to gauge the effectiveness of energy conservation measures and demonstrate progress over time.

  6. Reporting of Annual Peak Demand
    As with EUI, the rationale for this component of the program is to encourage projects to track and reduce their peak demand over time, to help reduce stress on the electrical grid and avoid the need for additional generation capacity.

  7. Reporting of Embodied Carbon
    Applicants for Zero Carbon Building certification will be required to report the embodied emissions of their building’s structural and envelope materials using life-cycle assessment (LCA) software.