It's time we were more open on buildings' green credentials

by Steve Randall04 Dec 2019

Canada needs to require disclosure of the energy and carbon data for its commercial buildings according to a group of real estate leaders.

With the United Nations calculating that buildings account for almost one third of greenhouse gas emissions and local government stats putting this figure at nearer 50% for Toronto and Vancouver, there needs to be significant improvement if Canada is to meet its targets.

Energy efficiency will need to improve in existing buildings as we move to a low-carbon economy over the next decade.

The Green Building Council (CaGBC) says that a lack of publicly-available data on commercial building performance is one of the key barriers to achieving the emissions reduction targets.

Its Disclosure Challenge is an initiative designed to champion the importance of energy benchmarking and data transparency in the Canadian commercial real estate market.

Real estate firms including QuadReal, Triovest Realty Advisors Inc., Concert Properties Ltd., Colliers International, and the Minto Group were volunteer participants in the initiative, disclosing data on the buildings in their portfolios, which total a combined $50 billion.

Less than half (46%) of the buildings disclosed as part of the Challenge had complete data available, with significant gaps in the retail, warehouse, and industrial sectors.

"The Disclosure Challenge results demonstrate that without clear government mandates like those in Ontario, it is challenging to access enough data to enable policymakers and regulators to monitor how buildings across their jurisdictions are performing and assess the impacts of energy and GHG emissions reduction policies. We need that information in order to be able to ensure we are succeeding in lowering our GHG emissions," Brian McCauley, President & Chief Executive Officer, Concert Properties.

Time to catch up
This group of firms, along with the CaGBC, is calling on federal and provincial governments to implement consistent building data disclosure regulations and requirements. This is something already seen in the US, Australia, and European markets. Ontario already has energy benchmarking regulations.

"Canada clearly needs to catch up quickly when it comes to benchmarking, reporting, and disclosing data. Access to building performance data has enabled owners in other jurisdictions to make more informed choices about investing in retrofits," said Thomas Mueller, CEO and President of CaGBC. "Canadian markets require data transparency to drive investment in efficiency programs and create demand for higher performing buildings."

Additional findings

  • In comparison with NRCan average site energy use intensity values, overall participant office buildings performed approximately 10 per cent better than the average office in Canada, whereas participant multi-residential buildings were about even with the average.
  • Average energy use intensity for office and multi-residential buildings in the challenge were 286 kWh/m2 and 256 kWh/m2 respectively. As compared to high-performance efficiency standards for new office and multi-residential buildings in Canada coming into force in different jurisdictions (with a standard of 100 kWh/m2), Disclosure Challenge office buildings were approximately 65 per cent less efficient and multi-residential buildings were 61 per cent less efficient.
  • GHG Emissions intensity varied across the country and was generally correlated with the electricity supply grid intensity, so office buildings in Alberta were as high as 170 kgCO2e/m2 and apartments in British Columbia were as low as 24 kgCO2e/m2.

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