Survey findings: Your thoughts on the upcoming ZCB-Design Standard

Green Building Team on January 8, 2024

Rating System/Standard
Zero Carbon Building
Zero Carbon

Earlier this fall we asked you for ideas to inform the ongoing evolution of our Zero Carbon Building – Design Standard. Over 230 projects are already using the standard to define ambition levels and strategies to achieve their low-carbon outcomes, but the market is evolving quickly and the Standard must reflect changing market capabilities and expectations. Thank you to everyone who responded. Here is a summary of what we heard.

Who did we hear from?
  • Even split between Owners and Consultants.
  • 92 percent rated themselves as very familiar with ZCB-Design.
  • 72 percent indicated they had pursued ZCB-Design certification on projects.
Where does the Standard sit in the marketplace?
  • A large majority of respondents felt that ZCB-Design is a leadership standard, and over two thirds felt it was doing “well” or “very well” in advancing the market.
  • Almost all respondents agreed there is ample flexibility for achieving certification.
  • Majority agreed that ZCB-Design is accessible to various building types and geographies.

What were the key findings?
  • Combustion for space heating and hot water, along with embodied carbon, were rated the most important issues for industry to address in pursuing decarbonization. Likewise, respondents felt increased stringency on these three issues was most important for any updates to the ZCB-Design Standard.
  • There were several issues that were deemed very important but that did not receive the same level of support for incorporating greater stringency in the Standard. These included energy use intensity, peak demand management, refrigerants, and resiliency.
  • Thermal and cooling energy demand intensities were deemed the least important issues and the least in need of greater stringency.
  • There was strong support for eliminating combustion for hot water, but many respondents felt some flexibility was needed for occupancies with high hot water demands, such as multi-unit residential buildings.
  • A majority of respondents supported material-specific requirements (especially for concrete and steel) for reducing embodied carbon, in addition to the current whole-building lifecycle assessment requirements.
  • Some respondents suggested we consider greater flexibility in the thermal energy demand intensity requirements for certain building types and/or climate zones.

Stakeholders recognized that minimizing the carbon footprint throughout a building’s lifecycle is instrumental in achieving true zero-carbon objectives. They also noted that ZCB-Design must retain its simplicity and sharp focus on carbon.

These insights will guide our ongoing efforts to innovate ZCB-Design v4, ensuring it aligns with industry expectations and drives sustainable practices. The results are being incorporated into the work of CAGBC’s Technical Advisory Groups and the Zero Carbon Steering Committee. The Standard will continue to adhere to its guiding principles of simplicity and accessibility, ensuring it incorporates enough flexibility to be applied across five climate zones and multiple building types.

The new version of ZCB-Design, version 4, is expected to be unveiled at CAGBC’s Building Lasting Change conference in Toronto, June 2024.

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