Photo credit: Province of British Columbia. Source:

Green buildings bring the sought-after pairing of environmental benefit and short-term financial gain, according to an article by energy-efficiency experts. Organizations such as the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance (CEEA) state that retrofitting old buildings and constructing green buildings are “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to cutting carbon output and creating financial savings.

Almost one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 came from buildings, the bulk of which is due to heating of buildings and water, according to a report by the Canadian Council of Academies. The report found 60 to 90 per cent of heating and cooling energy can be reduced by designing for energy efficiency.

For the City of Vancouver, the key to green buildings lies in improvements to basic structural features such as insulation and windows. According to a CBC interview with Sean Pander, the City’s Green Buildings program manager, greenhouse gas emissions from new detached homes in Vancouver dropped by 48 per cent from 2007 after a set of building bylaws regarding energy efficiency were passed in 2014.

"Really, the emphasis of the building needs to be on the bones of the building—window quality, insulation quality," said Pander to the CBC.

Other institutions are rethinking construction norms. UBC’s 18-storey Brock Commons student residence will be one of the tallest buildings made almost entirely of wood. Using wood as a structural material comes at a cost premium, but UBC’s infrastructure development managing director, John Metras, sees the building’s potential to capture carbon as worth the cost.

"A building like this, the calculation we've done, is the equivalent of taking 480 cars off the road for a year," said Metras to the CBC.

In Waterloo, real estate developer the Cora Group plans to build a net-positive office building that generates more electricity than it consumes. “It's our belief . . . that you can develop a net positive energy building without paying a significant premium,” said Cora chief operating officer Adrian Conrad to the Waterloo Region Record.

The economic case for retrofitting old buildings is also strong, pointed out Toon Dreessen, past President of the Ontario Association of Architects, in a Globe and Mail column. He noted data shows building retrofits “pay for themselves” within six years and that studies show occupancy rates are higher in certified green buildings.

“There is now compelling evidence that buildings with sustainable certification outperform similar non-green buildings in terms of rental rates, occupancy levels, tenant satisfaction scores, and the probability of lease renewals,” wrote Dreessen.

By Jenny Tan, 23 March 2017


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This article was written for Clean Capital News a free bi-weekly publication dedicated to producing topical articles on sustainability and clean technology that advance our understanding of issues like climate change and help generate solutions for a more sustainable future.

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