Canada’s Green Buildings Strategy needs a solid foundation
Open letter published in The Hill Times
CAGBC Staff on March 30, 2023
Canada’s green building sector is one of the best solutions to reduce carbon emissions, increase jobs, and grow the economy. In fact, supporting green building through proactive policies and investments could triple the number of jobs to almost 1.5 million, contribute $150 billion to Canada’s GDP, and result in a reduction of 53 MtCO2e of carbon compared with 2018 levels – all by 2030.
Whether retrofitting buildings or constructing new zero-carbon ones, green buildings also have many other co-benefits, including improving air quality and occupant health, protecting ecosystems, greening Canada’s supply chain, and aiding in housing affordability while ensuring more resilient buildings and communities.
With all the proven value green buildings provide, we support Natural Resources Canada’s efforts to develop Canada’s Green Buildings Strategy (GBS). Ensuring the strategy has credibility requires a solid foundation that includes ambitious and measurable milestones, support from all levels of government, and targeted investment. The strategy also must consider the lifecycle emissions of buildings and offer a long-term approach and solutions including on resilience to a changing climate. For best results, it must align with the building sector’s innovation and investment cycles and the dramatic demand for an expanded and skilled workforce.
Decarbonization at speed and scale will depend on forward-thinking regulations and targeted government support for zero-carbon buildings and deep-carbon retrofits. Our main trading partners are already moving ahead, whether through regulations like the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive of the European Union or the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States. With a strong GBS, Canada could keep pace and unlock significant economic and competitive benefits.
Closer to home, carbon emissions are also becoming a business risk for real estate owners. “Brown discounts” – where high carbon emissions reduce the investment a building can attract — are a growing consideration in real estate transactions. Keeping the real estate sector competitive will require the GBS set national guidelines, coordinate actions at all levels of government, and work with industry to implement robust tools and solutions.
A successful strategy must also prioritize and incentivize zero carbon transition planning to give building owners the tools to sequence needed interventions while controlling costs. Establishing a building or portfolio-wide plan is urgent when you consider that envelope improvements may happen only once by 2050 but can significantly impact the size and costs of heating and cooling systems.
Support for quality, accessible, and reliable building data is another area where the GBS could ensure a strong foundation for decarbonizing Canada’s buildings. Building owners need data to determine where to invest and how to demonstrate the effectiveness of their sustainability actions. Governments also need data to guide policies, establish program baselines, and measure program effectiveness. The GBS should encompass tools for measuring building performance and establish benchmarks for labelling both buildings and materials using Life Cycle Assessment best practices, procurement, and performance data. By helping manufacturers report on their products’ environmental performance, the government can strengthen its commitment to creating a viable, domestic supply chain of low-carbon building and retrofit materials.
Lastly, the GBS will necessitate a coherent and coordinated whole-of-government approach that adapts to current public programs and policies while being flexible enough to account for future ones. The GBS must coordinate with the Greening Government Strategy, align with building codes that should include operational and embodied carbon emissions by 2025, and support procurement policies such as the upcoming “Buy Clean” strategy. Beyond federal actions, the GBS could establish a consistent approach that other levels of government can follow to support the adoption of green building practices. A lack of harmonization is not conducive to scaling and accelerating green building innovation across Canada.
The government’s commitment to adopting a Green Buildings Strategy is a significant and promising step. Green building offers Canada numerous economic, environmental, and social benefits, but to realize them fully, the GBS must build a strong foundation. Focusing on government cooperation, investment in tools to support the building sector and its supply chain, and integrating with current and future policies and programs will help Canada advance climate action and build a more sustainable future.
Armstrong Fluid Technology
Managing Partner, Canadian CIO and Head of Investment Management
Gordon Hicks, C.M,
BMO Climate Institute
Brookfield Real Estate
President and CEO
Canada Green Building Council
Mary Van Buren,
Canadian Construction Association
President & CEO
Canadian Wood Council
Chair & CEO
President & CEO
Cement Association of Canada
Clean Energy Canada
President & CEO
Colleges and Institutes Canada
Jody K. Becker,
Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President, Infrastructure Services & Technology
Director of Engineering
Flynn Group of Companies
President & CEO
Forest Products Association of Canada
William H. Overturf III,
Chief of Asset Management Officer
Director of Sustainability
Kingspan Panels North America
CEO & President
Lafarge Eastern Canada
Vice President Energy Engineering
Nerva Energy Group
Vice President, Sustainability
Nexii Building Solutions
Business Development, Canada
Passive House Canada
Principal and Director of Sustainability
Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
Director of Public Affairs & Communications, North America
Vice President Sustainability, Strategic Initiatives & Innovation
CEO, President & Chairman
Director, Standards & Scientific Affairs
President & CEO
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
Senior Vice President, Project Finance
The Minto Group
Senior Vice President,
Net-zero concrete is essential to building the future, and we’re working hard to deliver it. Partnerships with the construction industry, governments and civil society will be key to achieving the goal.
President and CEO, Cement Association of Canada
We are driven to lead a global transformation in energy use through our energy-saving solutions and through the development of future ground-breaking technologies for the decarbonization effort.
Executive Chairman, Armstrong Fluid Technology
Building tall with wood moves the carbon-capture of our forests into our cities, allowing us to build more resilient and sustainable communities while providing the green, family-supporting jobs of tomorrow.
President & CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
The right infrastructure links electrification and digitization to unlock a smarter, more sustainable way forward. Let’s make sure the buildings we are modernizing and constructing today, are designed with the lowest energy impact to achieve our net-zero future.
VP Sustainability, Strategic Initiatives & Innovation, Schneider Electric Canada
NAIMA Canada understands how building envelope improvements could significantly reduce the energy demand and emissions of our built environment. We need many hands working together to move forward with Canada’s Green Buildings Strategy and we’re proud to be part of the initiative.
Executive Director, NAIMA Canada
Canada’s Green Building Strategy plays an important role in achieving net-zero carbon. Industry will benefit from clarity around regulation and from targeted incentives. Now is the time.
Director, Sustainability and Innovation, The Minto Group
Canada has a tall mountain to climb to improve the efficiency and decarbonize our buildings, and only through the guidance and support from a GBS will we be successful.
VP Energy Engineering, Nerva Energy Group Inc.
Green buildings featuring certified wood play an important role in mitigating climate change and improving health and well-being. Now is the time to scale up the benefits of green buildings.
President & CEO, The Sustainable Forestry Initiative
Development of a national green building strategy will send an important signal to industry to innovate and deliver low carbon solutions which is critical to scaling change within the building industry
Director of Sustainability, Principal, Perkins&Will Canada
Integrating wastewater energy recovery into the Green Building Strategy is a powerful way to reinforce our commitment to a sustainable and resilient Canada. By supporting GBS and tapping into the untapped potential of wastewater energy, we’re fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and paving the way for a cleaner, greener future for generations to come.
CEO, President & Chairman, SHARC Energy
Canada’s construction industry is ready to become a leader in green transition and needs the government to create a more supportive environment. This includes data–driven decisions, updated building codes, tax incentives, workforce training, and changes to federal procurement to help the industry move away from carbon-intensive materials and invest in innovation and clean technologies.
President, Canadian Construction Association
Making significant carbon reductions requires political will, policies and actions that support the building sector’s shift to climate resilient zero-carbon buildings. Canada’s GBS is a step in the right direction to accelerating climate change resilience.
CEO, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
The Green Buildings Strategy must advance strong solutions for embodied carbon. As a Canadian company deploying technologies that reduce CO2 across concrete manufacturing, CarbonCure is eager to do its part.
Chair & CEO, CarbonCure Technologies
Driving reductions in building emissions through smart policy implementation, such as Canada’s Green Buildings Strategy, makes sense for the health of communities throughout Canada and aligns with ROCKWOOL’s commitment to enriching modern living by using energy-efficient materials in our homes and businesses.
Director of Public Affairs & Communications, ROCKWOOL North America
As lenders to the construction and home building sectors, banks play a role in helping Canada achieve its ambitious targets for real estate. BMO supports CAGBC’s efforts to help shape a market that meets the challenge of a changing climate.
Head, BMO Climate Institute
Imperial Sign Corporation applauds efforts to develop a GBS. An intelligent GBS has the potential to dramatically lower embodied carbon and fight climate change, while improving human health, at a comparable or lower long-run cost.
Managing Director, Imperial Sign Corporation
One Click LCA is a cloud-based software that facilitates decarbonizing the built environment by enabling professionals to easily measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their buildings and infrastructure projects.
Business Development, Canada, One Click LCA