The global impact of green building is growing

President & CEO reflects on World Green Building Week 2023 and CAGBC's place in a global movement

Thomas Mueller on September 10, 2023


September 11-15, 2023, is World Green Building Week (WGBW), an annual global campaign designed to accelerate sustainable building. The campaign is organized by World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) , a global network of over 75 Green Building Councils, including the Canada Green Building Council.

CAGBC is a founding member of the WorldGBC, and one of the largest councils within the network. We are very involved within the network, as I participate in the CEO Network and Sustainable Finance Taskforce while our team has joined the Advocacy Policy taskforce and ESG working group. CAGBC has also been represented on the WorldGBC’s Board of Directors by Lisa Bate (B+H) and, more recently, Michael Brooks (REALPAC).

Local action, global influence

The WorldGBC’s main role is to advance global advocacy and raise awareness about the role of green buildings in decarbonizing local economies, improving health and wellbeing, and promoting circularity. It brings together and leverages its implementation network of councils to realize the potential and demonstrate the opportunity of green buildings. Nothing is more powerful in strengthening international climate commitments than showing that green buildings can be built right now anywhere in the world.

Through WorldGBC, Canada demonstrates support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we collectively influence global policies and directions. Eleven SDGs are prioritized for the building and construction sector. Many of these SDGs are reflected in our work in Canada already, either directly or indirectly. For example, our efforts in advancing the retrofit economy clearly show the economic benefits of scaling deep carbon retrofits, including skills and knowledge development in the workforce.

Through the WorldGBC, our members can also participate in advancing the priorities that will help Canada’s building sector prepare for the coming transition. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are leading the way globally as signatories to the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Commitment. Member companies like Lemay, Armstrong Fluid Technology, B+H Architects, CannonDesign, GI Quo Vadis, Kingspan, Nexii Building Solutions, and Schneider Electric have also signed on to these global commitments, showing Canadian leadership and signalling the transition to net zero is already underway.

It was CAGBC that developed the first Zero Carbon Building Standards in the world. With over 100 certifications and 200 registrations, these standards are guiding building owners and developers to achieve and validate zero carbon performance. Since CAGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standards were first launched in 2017, a growing number of GBC’s have developed standards to guide decarbonization in their local markets, including Australia, Brazil and Germany, and Hong Kong.

Creating value at home

Beyond influencing international policies and programs, our members benefit from our interactions with the WorldGBC. Our global connections provide exposure to emerging research, issues, and insights that can impact the Canadian market. For example, the World Economic Forum regularly publishes its list of short- and long-term global risks ranked by severity. This research shows that climate action and resilience will be at the forefront of the transition challenges facing Canada’s building sector in the coming years.

Source: World Economic Forum Global Risks Perception Survey 2022-2023.  

Driven by these global indicators, but also by a shift in investor sentiment and increased global reporting requirements, many commercial real estate companies and institutional owners are starting to plan for the transition of their portfolios toward carbon reductions and greater resiliency over the next 30 years. They recognize that a proactive response to manage climate risks is required. At the same time, they are uncertain about the size and timing of the investments required to meet climate change targets.

Global recognition of the role that buildings play in climate change has triggered the creation of global standards and targets that drive change in the real estate sector. This started over 10 years ago with GRESB, which has now been embraced by owners and investors on a massive scale. At the end of 2022, $8.6 trillion in real estate and infrastructure assets around the globe, including over 1,800 real estate companies and 150,000 buildings, were participating in GRESB. Newer products like Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) and Science Based Targets (SBTi) effectively set asset and company level carbon targets for real estate and other industries. In both instances, CAGBC is involved through WorldGBC to shape the development of these global standards and initiatives for operational decarbonization. In Canada, these standards are making CAGBC’s products – like LEED, Zero Carbon Building Standards, and Investor Ready Energy Efficiency (IREE) – more attractive. Project certification verifies building performance, which can contribute to reporting and disclosure on climate risk and, at the same time, lower operating costs and retain the value of a building over time.

Advancing global priorities everywhere

As we look ahead to World Green Building Week, CAGBC is exploring how we can help with #BuildingTheTransition. Our focus remains on supporting our members – the people and businesses that design, construct, own and operate buildings – through this transition. We do this in three key ways:

  1. We provide trusted standards, rating systems, and project support that enable building owners and developers to measure and validate their sustainability performance
  2. We advocate for the programs and policies that advance green buildings and accelerate the decarbonization of Canada’s buildings at scale and speed
  3. We support decarbonization through learning opportunities, including the development of the Low Carbon Training Program, which lauches this fall and is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

This World Green Building Week, we hope you will join us in celebrating green building and pushing for the changes needed so we can continue #BuildingTheTransition to a more sustainable future for all.

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