Buildings: SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS
Buildings: SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS
Buildings are one of the most impactful areas where a municipality can reduce its emissions. Increasing energy efficiency can also make housing costs more affordable.
Housing prices have been increasing, and ensuring people can afford housing is important for tackling poverty. How affordable is housingin a community? How many of its buildings are sustainable?
Why this Indicator is Important
Buildings account for Canada’s third largest source of GHG emissions at 18%.1 As climate impacts increase, increasing the climate resilience of buildings is also important. To be more sustainable, we need to switch the kind of energy buildings are using—many buildings in Canada currently rely on natural gas, oil, or electricity generated from fossil fuels, and need to switch to clean electricity generated from renewables like wind, solar, or geothermal. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is also an important complementary strategy. While building standards are largely a provincial jurisdiction, most municipalities also have the ability to develop their own standards that fit within provincial building codes. While there are many ways to measure sustainable buildings, our indicator looks at two examples of “high performance building standards” —Leading in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)2 and Passive House3— which municipalities might use or adopt in their own bylaws and policies. The federal government is also developing a Green Building Strategy4 which aims to achieve a net-zero emissions and climate resilient building sector by 2050. It will include building new “zero-carbon” and climate resilient buildings as well as retrofitting existing buildings. While it remains to be seen exactly what this will look like, the strategy will have to involve municipal cooperation in order to ensure consistent implementation.5
Data Availability and Accessibility: 1/3
Our data comes from the Canada Green Building Council database of LEED and other ratings,6 and the Passive House Database from Passivhaus Institut.7 LEED comes with four levels of certification.8 However only Platinum, the top level certification, is used for the indicator. LEED is a rating system that indicates how efficiently a building is designed and operated. Each site is given points based on its environmental impact in various categories. Credits are awarded and must meet a minimumof 80 points on a 100 point scale to be rated Platinum. A Passive House offers high levels of comfort with very low energy consumption. The construction of such a house includes specialized windows and building envelope— insulated roof, floorslab and exterior walls — that regulate indoor temperature. Passive Houses have up to 90% energy savings for space heating and cooling compared to typical buildings. The Passive House standard is not easily achieved for the refurbishment of existing buildings due to thermal bridges, basements and walls.9
Note(s): Data are from 2022. Multiple sources are consulted including the Canada Green Building Council database and the Passive House Database.
A medium city, Victoria, British Columbia, is the winner, with nineteen LEED and Passive House buildings combined, giving it the highest per capita standing among NCL municipalities. Our data shows a strong provincial trend, with BC municipalities as a whole performing the best in this category. This could be linked to the province’s Energy Step Code, which allows municipalities to implement higher tiers of energy efficiency requirements above the BC Building Code, and draws on Passive House certification.10 Under the city’s current Step Code tier, all new residential and commercial buildings in Victoria must be built with 20% high energy efficiency compared to the baseline BC Building Code.11 Moving forward, the city will gradually be moving up the tiers and implementing higher requirements. Provincially, BC is also implementing carbon pollution standardsfor new buildings, which will come into effect gradually across the next couple years. Victoria is working with the building industry to ensure it is equipped to meet these higher requirements.12