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CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Program

Moving the industry toward greater sustainability

By: Fin MacDonald, Manager, Zero Carbon Building Program, Canada Green Building Council

As the latest report from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear, this evolution of the building industry is urgently needed. This imperative is leading to growing interest in the ZCB Program: in addition to the 16 original Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program participants, an additional 10 projects have registered to pursue certification.

First certifications demonstrated viability and replicability of zero carbon building strategies

The first three ZCB certifications were announced in 2018, with all three projects underscoring different aspects of the Zero Carbon Building Standard and illustrating its broad application. evolv1, a commercial office building in Waterloo, Ontario and a ZCB Pilot Program participant, was the first project to achieve ZCB-Design certification in April 2018. Employing a highly integrated design process that incorporated active and passive systems to optimize value against construction costs, evolv1 demonstrates that a business case can be made for buildings that contribute no net carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

In May 2018, Mohawk College’s Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation in Hamilton became the second project and the first institutional building in Canada to earn ZCB-Design certification. The facility is now serving as a laboratory for the next generation of green building and renewable energy professionals.

Lastly, the certification of Canada’s first-ever ZCB-Performance project in June 2018, 100 Murray Street in Ottawa, highlights how simple it can be for an existing building to reach zero carbon emissions. The high-performing building, which had already obtained LEED for Existing Buildings Gold certification, built upon its proven energy performance to achieve a balance of zero carbon emissions over a 12-month period of operations, using the ZCB Standard to simplify the process of reducing emissions.

The building at 100 Murray Street’s achievement also showcases the synergies between LEED and the ZCB program. Many LEED projects are already highly energy efficient and carry a small carbon footprint, making them excellent candidates for ZCB certification.

Embodied carbon presents an opportunity

CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard requires projects to report the embodied carbon of their structural and envelope components.  Pilot projects, and other early adopters, have reported that this is a new, eye-opening exercise and there is a clear appetite within the market to include embodied carbon in an expanded definition of a zero carbon building. It is an important source of emissions and may actually rise with efforts to decrease operational emissions.