CAGBC’s Disclosure Challenge puts the spotlight on data

The Canada Green Building Council’s new report, entitled Full Disclosure – Real Estate’s Climate Leadership in Action, highlights how data transparency, benchmarking and building labelling must become standard practice for building operations.Launched in 2019, the Disclosure Challenge called on real-estate leaders to publicly disclose the performance of their building portfolio, including available energy, GHG emissions, and water data.

The Challenge launched with Concert Properties Ltd., Colliers, the Minto Group, QuadReal Property Group, and Triovest, and has since expanded to include Brookfield Properties, the City of Ottawa, Golden Properties, Hudson Pacific Properties, KingSett Capital, LaSalle Investment Management, and SHAPE Properties.

Together, these organizations have disclosed data from over 900 buildings – accounting for 17 million m2 of floor space. The CAGBC states that access to reliable data can raise awareness of carbon reductions, measure retrofit outcomes, and help inform policies and programs supporting the decarbonization of Canada’s buildings – including the federal government’s Green Buildings Strategy.

With three years of data, including during 2020 when the COVID-19 global pandemic directly impacted building occupancy, the Challenge enabled real estate owners to identify trends and insights related to energy use in office and multi-residential buildings and documented improved energy carbon intensity values for buildings in Alberta, according to the report findings.

In addition, the Challenge demonstrated that a disclosure and data-sharing approach for public or private real-estate managers is possible in any jurisdiction in Canada.

Yet barriers still exist, especially for specific building types. For example, industrial, warehouse and retail buildings found it more challenging to access complete performance data. This could be due to tenants that paid their utility bills, campus-style energy distribution where one energy meter feeds multiple buildings or a lack of direct data connections between the utility providers and data management systems. Finding a solution that provides better whole-building data collection for all building types will be essential to ensure the benefits of data collection and monitoring are fully realized.

The CAGBC further states that increasing data transparency will help the building sector identify buildings needing zero-carbon retrofits and enable more informed choices about where to invest retrofit dollars. Backed by data, the resulting boom in deep carbon retrofit activity will foster sector innovation, create jobs, and leave future generations with better buildings for both people and the planet.

Data access will also make it easier for commercial real estate companies to measure themselves against their net-zero carbon targets and stated environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives. However, this requires standardized building data that is reliable and easy to access, including (but not limited) to water and energy consumption, waste, and GHG emissions.

CAGBC has called on the government to support the implementation of standardized energy benchmarking, disclosure and rating systems in provinces and territories or to provide a national one they could join. This strategy can be accomplished quickly with tools such as Arc Skoru, a globally recognized building performance platform.

To date, only Ontario requires public reporting of building energy data. Still, the City of Edmonton, the City of Winnipeg, the City of Montreal, the City of Ottawa, and the Province of Nova Scotia have developed voluntary approaches to whole-building data and have been actively working on benchmarking programs or plans.

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