Reducing Canada’s Carbon Footprint One Building at a Time
By Gail Chiasson
If you happen to work in a LEED platinum certified building, count your blessings.
That means that your building is not only offering the best of sustainable energy possible in terms of lighting, heating, air conditioning, water use and other energy factors, it also means that you have a healthier environment in which to work.
There are only five buildings that have achieved such lofty status in Canada, while 95 others have won bronze, silver and gold certifications. You’ve heard of Canada’s need to reduce its carbon footprint. These buildings are doing it.
“And we have 700 projects registered to work towards LEED certification,” says Nancy Grenier, manager of marketing and communications, Canada Green Building Council.
These buildings are newly constructed, but the CaGBC, which accelerates the design and construction of green buildings in Canada, is updating the LEED Canada Green Building Rating System to also address all existing building types, including private homes, and to streamline the process to lower costs and shorten the time required for certification. The next generation of LEED Canada will be Web-based, streamlined and be part of an integrated and unified LEED rating system in North America. It will incorporate performance-based energy and water efficiency credits.
The CaGBC is a broad-based inclusive coalition of 1,600 member organizations involved in the design, construction and operation of buildings. Its aim is a transformed, built environment leading to a sustainable future through changing industry standards; developing best design practices and guidelines; advocating for green buildings; and developing educational tools to support its members in implementing sustainable design and construction practices.
The LEED Canada Green Building Rating System Initiative is a tool to allow for rapid expansion of green building certification in Canada. With the view that every building can aspire to sustainability, the CaGBC’s goal is to certify 100,000 green commercial buildings and one million green homes by 2015, and to take major steps towards net zero emissions from buildings by 2030. Given that buildings are responsible for up to one-third of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, this would have a major impact on overall reduction.
To earn LEED certification, the project must satisfy all of the prerequisites and a minimum number of points to attain a LEED rating level.
The Prerequisites and Credits are organized in the five principal LEED categories:
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
An additional category, Innovation & Design Process, addresses sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under these five environmental categories.
The first step toward earning LEED certification is project registration. Upon registration, project contacts receive an orientation letter and access to resources that explain and facilitate the formal LEED application process.
Once a project is registered, the project team prepares documentation and calculations to satisfy the prerequisite and credit submission requirements. It’s best to have a LEED Accredited Professional as the project contact and team member responsible for coordinating the LEED process.
“To date, approximately 3,500 Canadian practitioners from all sectors of the industry are now LEED accredited professionals,” says Grenier. These practitioners must pass a specific test to receive this accreditation.
Project ratings are certified by the CaGBC based on the total point score, following an independent review and audits of selected credits of documentation submitted by a design and construction team.
The CaGBC is in the process of developing a tool that will track measured green building performance—not only for LEED certified buildings. Through the Green Building Performance Initiative, the CaGBC is piloting the development of a national performance system involving hundreds of projects with commercial office building landlords, school boards, governments and utility companies. This will be rolled out for all building types over the next three years.
The Green Building Performance System will provide building owners and managers with an integrated set of energy and environmental management tools and resources:
- Benchmarking of energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions against national and regional performance standards;
- A standardized audit template and process to identify areas for improvement;
- Action planning templates and workshops to help assess current performance and plan improvements;
- Tools and templates to facilitate performance verification and certification.
This GBPI will put existing buildings on track towards LEED certification. In the future, it will be possible to verify building performance in other ways such as building labeling, special building rating tools, verification through utilities or carbon offset organizations.
Coming next is data reporting of certified buildings, which will comprise actual performance measurements and associated greenhouse gas emission savings. This information will be part of a national database that provides an accurate account of the environmental impact of buildings and can provide useful insight during the development of incentive programs by governments and utility companies.