Momentum is growing for net-zero buildings, as registrations for the Zero Carbon Building standards doubled in less than six months. Developed by the Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC), the ZCB standards offer projects a framework to achieve zero carbon buildings.
Established in 2017, the ZCB program has certified over 57 projects, with 224 projects currently registered under the standards – more than double the registrations in June 2022.“For years, CAGBC has focused on zero-carbon buildings in our standards, education, research, and advocacy. Now we are starting to see results, with more zero-carbon projects, more retrofit financing options, and more government programs and policies supporting a low-carbon building sector,” said Thomas Mueller, CAGBC’s President and CEO. “We can’t let this momentum slow in scaling the decarbonization of Canadian buildings by 2050 which will require a massive effort from across the building sector and all levels of government.”
A zero-carbon building is highly energy-efficient and minimizes greenhouse gas emissions from building materials and operations. Until all emissions can be eliminated, high-quality carbon offsets can be used as a counterbalance. CAGBC’s Zero Carbon Building standards include the Zero Carbon Building – Design Standard for new construction and major renovations, and the Zero Carbon Building – Performance Standard, which is an annual certification ensuring zero-carbon operations.
In June, CAGBC launched the third version of ZCB-Design, providing projects with increased flexibility to meet thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) requirements, addressing embodied carbon, and limiting onsite combustion. The ZCB-Design Standard is a requirement for new buildings under Infrastructure Canada’s Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program.
“We continue to evolve the ZCB standards to provide a framework for all buildings seeking to eliminate carbon emissions and lower embodied carbon,” said Mark Hutchinson, Vice-President of Green Building Programs and Innovation at CAGBC. “While the standards balance rigour with flexibility, reaching zero requires effort and planning. To meet Canada’s climate targets, all building owners should be revisiting their asset plans with carbon reductions in mind.”
In Decarbonizing Canada’s Large Buildings, CAGBC put the spotlight on existing buildings – the most significant challenge to decarbonize by 2050. The research team studied 50 building archetypes and found all have a path to zero through deep carbon retrofits. The most cost-effective approach involves aligning with regular building system life cycles. For example, a building might only execute improvements to the envelop once in its lifetime – so it is imperative that when that opportunity comes, carbon reductions are front and centre.
The new ZCB-Design certification can be leveraged for deep carbon retrofits on existing buildings. It also requires transition planning to ensure there is a plan to address any systems reliant on combustion. CAGBC will be working on programming to help support teams develop their own transition plans in the coming months.
“For most existing buildings, you have one chance to do deep carbon retrofits right,” Hutchinson said. “Don’t miss that opportunity.”