The next evolution of green building innovation in Canada

Developed to assess carbon emissions in commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings, the Zero Carbon
Building Standard is broadly applicable to a wide range of new and existing building types across the country.

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

With this new Standard, Canada joins an elite group of countries, including Australia, France, Switzerland, UK and US who are showing leadership in carbon reduction.

Accounting for energy sources

Energy efficiency efforts are driven in large part by the goal of reducing carbon pollution, however the most important factor in the carbon footprint of a building is often not its energy performance, but the carbon intensity of the local electrical grid and the fossil fuels used. Recognizing the differences in regional electrical grids and fuel choices is therefore 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.

Developed by CaGBC in extensive consultation with the industry

The Zero Carbon Building Standard outlines the specific requirements of the program and was developed through extensive consultation with representatives from over 50 industry organizations, utilities, governments and companies across Canada. CaGBC is also working with 16 of Canada’s most sustainable projects in the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, which will inform further development of the Standard and accompanying resources and education. This Standard was developed following the release of the Zero Carbon Framework in November 2016.

Project registration for the Standard will open September 5, along with full pricing and additional program details. For ongoing updates, and to follow the progress of CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building pilot projects, bookmark this page and visit it frequently for updates.


CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Standard Executive Summary

Full CaGBC Zero
Carbon Building
Standard document

FAQ - Zero Carbon
Building Standard

CaGBC’s Zero Carbon
Building Pilot Projects

CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Framework


Technical Details

Zero Carbon certification for New Construction

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 certification for Existing Buildings

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.

Dual Certification

Achieving dual-certification earns buildings the unique designation of Zero Carbon Building – Design + Performance. A building that has achieved Zero Carbon Building - Design certification can apply for Zero Carbon Building - Performance certification any time after one year of building performance data has been collected.

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.