Heightened focus on energy and carbon emissions reductions has changed expectations and priorities for Canada’s green building industry.
The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has responded by introducing its Zero Carbon Building Standard in 2017 and bringing new certification programs and tools to Canada through the launch of GBCI Canada earlier this year. LEED also continues to evolve to meet rising expectations.
LEED’s holistic view emphasizes providing healthier indoor environments for occupants while reducing emissions, maximizing energy efficiency, reducing waste and powering innovation. However, within this framework, continuous improvement is necessary. That’s why CaGBC has begun rolling out LEED v4.1, which is focused on streamlining, clarifying and strengthening requirements.
Project teams will be able to use the updated rating systems as soon as they are released, and members of the green building council will officially approve the rating systems by way of a vote expected to occur in 2019. Upgrades to the rating system are being released as drafts (“beta” updates) over the course of 2018, with the March 2018 roll out of LEED v4.1 O+M being the first of these.
Focusing on outcomes
In order to reduce environmental impacts and improve the health and wellness of occupants, the critical role of existing buildings must always be considered. The operations of buildings must be substantially decarbonized by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and more than 50 per cent of the building stock in 2050 will consist of buildings that already exist today.
LEED v4.1 O+M addresses this issue by focusing on assessing emissions from building operations as well as from transportation (commuting to and from the building). A project’s energy performance score is determined in part by its GHG emissions per capita and unit area, while its transportation score is determined by per-capita emissions.
LEED v4.1 O+M’s updates focus on performance outcomes, and not on prescriptive measures to improve performance. Fully 90 per cent of the points available in LEED v4.1 O+M are based on simple key performance outcomes such as energy and water use.
LEED v4.1 O+M also introduces annual recertification, facilitating its integration into annual performance objectives and budgets. This also reduces the likelihood of gaps in data tracking due to changes in personnel, equipment or processes.
New benchmarking platform
The LEED v4.1 O+M rating system uses the Arc platform, which is an online tool for collecting, managing and benchmarking building data and improving sustainability performance. On the Arc platform, data is assessed in five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. The performance metrics correspond to those that represent 90 per cent of the points available in LEED v4.1 O+M, providing building owners using Arc with the ability to easily identify projects in their portfolio that are ready for LEED certification.
Reassessing energy performance
It’s anticipated that LEED 4.1 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C) will include updates to how energy performance is assessed. Standards and practices have evolved since LEED v4 was first balloted, and version 4.1 is an opportunity to ensure LEED continues to address the most pressing environmental issue of our time: climate change. CaGBC is working with stakeholders, its Energy and Engineering Technical Advisory Group and the LEED Canada Steering Committee to identify the best approach for tackling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from building operations in the Canadian context.
In recognition of the climate change imperative, a metric that assesses efforts to reduce GHG emissions is being considered. This metric would encourage careful evaluation of energy efficiency measures, the selection of energy sources (particularly for heating and hot water), and onsite renewable energy generation options. Equal weighting could be provided to overall building energy efficiency in recognition of its particularly complicated and critical role. Consideration is being given to a new, clear measure of energy performance based on assessing energy savings relative to a baseline with a fixed energy source for heating; historically, cost savings have been used rather than energy savings, and the energy source has changed as a function of the energy source chosen in the proposed design.
A greener future
In 13 years, more than 3,800 projects have been certified LEED across Canada under the green building rating system. The cumulative impact of these projects is as follows: a reduction in GHG emissions of 2.49 million carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) tonnes, which is like taking 530,000 cars off the roads for a year; energy savings of 12.9 million eMWh, which is enough to power 435,000 homes in Canada for a full year; and water savings of more than 24 billion litres — equivalent to three hours of water coursing over Niagara Falls. But the work isn’t done.
It’s clear a greener future cannot be forged without ensuring the sustainability of both new and existing buildings. The latest update to the LEED O+M rating system, and the upcoming changes to other LEED rating systems, will simplify and streamline this endeavour and provide tools and technology to aid the process, paving the way for the industry to continue to demonstrate leadership and be recognized for these achievements.
To participate in the LEED v4.1 O+M beta or to learn more, visit cagbc.org/leedv4-1.
Mark Hutchinson is the vice president of green building programs at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).