Green Building in Canada

Over the past few years, the global construction market has undergone a shift towards sustainable building technologies. These methods, which are designed to increase the efficiency and decrease the ecological footprint of buildings, have experienced increasing rates of adoption worldwide. Here are some facts and figures on the global green building market:

  • Europe currently has highest level of market activity; 44% of firms build green on over 60% of projects
  • Asia is the fastest growing market where activity is expected to triple by 2013
  • N. America has the largest expected total market involvement, with 96% of firms dedicated to some level of green building by 2013
  • Overall, the value of the world’s green building market is estimated to increase to US $60B by 2010, and to US $96B-$140B by 2020
  • The green renovation market is estimated at $200B by 2010 (up from $120B in 2005)
  • In USA, by 2010 5-10% of new construction starts are estimated to be green (up from 2% in 2005)
  • In Canada, it is estimated that in 2007 approximately 6500 homes would be built to EnerGuide 80, representing 2.8% of new housing starts for the year.
  • As of 2009 over 1,000 buildings are registered with the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification (LEED).

Canadian capabilities in the emerging sustainable building market lie across the green building value chain. Aspects in which Canada excels include:

  • Design, services and engineering
  • Expert knowledge of advanced building systems
  • Extensive expertise with and availability of building materials: wood, concrete, steel

The recent trends in Canadian green building support the development of a sustainable construction industry in Canada

  • Consumer attitude has shifted towards green buildings
  • The use of wood-framing and wood products in new countries has increased
  • The market has shifted to green retrofits
  • The industry has experienced an increased globalization of architectural and engineering firms and product manufacturers, allowing for the use of global expertise in virtually any country
  • The awareness of certifications has increased, as have green building regulations
  • There has been increased incorporation of sustainability into non-traditional sectors

Canada has several competitive industry advantages in the Green Building Sector:

  • Advanced building envelope construction- 10,000 LEED AC
  • Design and construction for cold climates and other climate extremes
  • Expertise in wood frame construction, including seismic performance and fire resistance, for low-rise and multi-storey construction up to six storeys
  • High-end prefabricated building solutions, including panelized, timber frame and log systems
  • Hybrid construction solutions combining wood frame, concrete and/or steel
  • Lightweight steel framing, including wall studs, floor joists and trusses
  • Value- added wood products & engineered wood products
  • Active engagement and recognition of sustainable forest management; world leader in forest certification.
  • Leader in life cycle assessment and application to built env.
  • Advanced research and testing facilities
  • Leaders in integrated design
  • World leadership in life cycle assessment

In addition to the aforementioned facts, the Canadian Green Building Market has several strengths that will lead to its continued growth in the coming years:

  • International reputation in advanced design & engineering, esp. for extreme climate conditions
  • Leading expertise in building with wood; strong wood lobby & organizations
  • Knowledge of advanced building techniques
  • Strong, established network of partners (e.g. Super E, CMHC, EDC) who are engaged internationally & in Canada
  • Strong domestic market

Introduction to LEED

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification program and an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. It provides building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. In Canada LEED certification and standards are administrated by the Canadian Green Building Council.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:

  • sustainable site development
  • water efficiency
  • energy efficiency
  • materials selection
  • indoor environmental quality

Credits and Prerequisites are organized into these five categories. An additional category, focusing on innovation, addresses sustainable building expertise, exemplary performance, and design (or operational) measures not covered under these five environmental categories.

Certain rating systems include additional relevant categories. LEED Canada for Homes, for instance, includes a Location and Linkages category and an Awareness and Education category.

Certification is based on the total point score achieved, following an independent review. With four possible levels of certification (certified, silver, gold and platinum), LEED is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of green building strategies that best fit the constraints and goals of particular projects.

The Canadian rating systems are an adaptation of the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Green Building Rating System, tailored specifically for Canadian climates, construction practices and regulations. The rating systems are adapted to the Canadian market through an inclusive process that engages stakeholders and experts representing the various sectors of the Canadian industry.