CaGBC Rolling Out “Zero Carbon” Building Certification

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OTTAWA – In the competitive and increasingly environmentally-conscious realm of commercial real estate, LEED certifications have long been the gold (or, in some cases, platinum) standard for building efficiency and sustainability.

New for 2017, however, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) will be offering commercial builders and managers an even greener guideline to strive for with the Zero Carbon Buildings Framework – effectively, a blueprint for net-zero commercial, as well as high-rise residential and institutional, buildings.

According to Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of the CaGBC, the program will differ from LEED by setting targets on emissions, in addition to energy consumption.

“Our focus on carbon emissions as opposed to energy in this framework flows from the increasing urgency to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings,” Mueller explained.

“By embarking on this important initiative, the CaGBC is providing the market with a state-of -the-art guideline and, soon, the third-party verification and support required to make net zero carbon buildings a reality in the near future.”

Buildings vying for the CaGBC’s Zero Carbon designation will need to excel in five key evaluation metrics:

  1. Greenhouse gas intensity, as measured using regional emissions factors;
  2. Energy intensity;
  3. Peak energy demand;
  4. An “embodied carbon metric,” measuring the impact of the building materials themselves (and how they are utilized);
  5. Use of renewable energy, either generated on-site, or “procured directly” from sustainable producers.

While the verification program is not due for completion until the second quarter of 2017, the Zero Carbon standard already has its first pilot project in Mohawk College’s recently-announced Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation. Built with the help of a $20M investment from the Government of Canada, the zero-emission facility is set to open in 2018 and will feature geothermal wells, solar panel/thermal arrays, accessible roof terraces, and more.

The CaGBC’s Carbon Zero framework is one of various initiatives designed to help Canada meet its federal goal of reducing emissions to 30 per cent below their 2005 levels – with an ambitious 2030 deadline.

For real estate buyers and investors, the certification will likely join LEED as one of the top indicators of a commercial property’s long-term value. Developers and building managers, on the other hand, can already start doing their homework by checking out the framework’s Executive Summary, available here (in PDF format).

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