Looking Ahead: Green Building
and the Manitoba Election

With a provincial election coming on September 10 in Manitoba, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has four key recommended actions for the future Manitoban government. These actions will help the new government foster a strong green building economy, helping generate economic growth and jobs for Manitobans.

Why green buildings? Manitoba’s built environment is a significant contributor to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions at 17 per cent. By constructing high-performing, low-emission buildings and retrofitting Manitoba’s existing building stock, the new government will lower emissions, create new jobs, and scale-up investments and innovation. At the same time, these investments will ensure building stock is more resilient to future climate conditions such as extreme weather.

Driven by the CaGBC’s Manitoba Chapter, here are our four high-priority focus actions that we believe will kick-start Manitoba’s green building efforts.

Recommendation 1: Mandatory Energy Benchmarking

CaGBC believes that the future government of Manitoba should enact an energy benchmarking regulation. Energy benchmarking collects data about buildings including occupancy and usage in order to provide concrete information about building performance. This foundational step allows owners to assess how their buildings are performing and helps to drive improvements. Our research lays out the steps for implementing such a program and discusses the benefits of a phased approach starting with the largest buildings.

Manitoba is exceptionally positioned for this initiative for the following reasons:

  • Manitoba has one utility that is already connected to NRCan’s Portfolio Manager
  • A pilot project was run by the Green Building Coordination Team, so a large percentage of government buildings are already in the program
  • The voluntary Manitoba Race to Reduce benchmarking program currently has over 7.5 million square feet of commercial office space registered and participating in benchmarking

Benchmarking would also provide the Province of Manitoba with critical data on the performance of its buildings helping to identify building sectors with the greatest opportunity for improvement and GHG reductions. We recommend that provincially owned and operated buildings begin mandatory benchmarking as soon as possible with the phased roll out to large commercial buildings beginning in 2020.

Recommendation 2: Accelerate to Zero Carbon Buildings

CaGBC research demonstrates that zero-carbon buildings are not only technologically feasible using readily available technologies and practices; they are also financially viable. On average, zero-carbon buildings can achieve a positive financial return of one per cent over a 25-year lifecycle, inclusive of carbon pricing. Zero Carbon buildings save owners money with low operational energy costs that future proof the building against uncertain energy costs.

The cost of not adopting a zero-carbon approach increases with each passing day. Every building not designed to zero-carbon will contribute to increased carbon emissions – and will inevitably require major investments in mechanical equipment, ventilation systems, and building envelopes to meet future GHG reduction targets.

We recommend Manitoba set a clear goal of zero carbon for new construction by 2030, which CaGBC’s research shows is financially and competitively viable for the industry. This would provide clarity to developers, designers, and builders about future performance expectations and help them assemble the expertise, processes, and investments needed to be successful.

Recommendation 3: Increase energy efficiency requirements through building codes

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.

To achieve the large reductions in GHG emissions required from building design and retrofit decisions, the Government of Manitoba should adopt the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2017 and all future editions as the code moves buildings towards Net Zero. Energy codes must move aggressively towards these targets. Resources will be needed to help educate, review and enforce the codes, as well as to ensure the targets are being met.

Recommendation 4: Invest in workforce development and training in order to support Manitoba’s low-carbon building industry

Today’s complex and changing labour market requires workers to adapt, retrain, or upskill to be successful. As Manitoba transitions to a low-carbon economy, it needs to develop a robust construction workforce with the capacity to develop, construct, and manage innovative, high-performing smart green buildings. The construction trades are not the only profession in the building industry that needs to adapt. Building officials, engineers, architects, designers, project managers, energy modellers, and building operators will also need to upgrade their skills to deliver on highly innovative and smart green buildings.

CaGBC research  identifies the range of skills and capabilities required by key professions and trades, as well as identifies the barriers that need to be addressed to scale up high-performing buildings and retrofits to their full potential.

These four recommended actions are just a starting point for dialogue starting September 10, with the election. The CaGBC Manitoba Chapter will continue our work with the new provincial government to advance Manitoba’s green building standards for zero carbon requirements for new construction, and to renew and strengthen their commitment to green certifications such as LEED in all government-owned and funded buildings.