Making the Case for Building to Zero Carbon

Zero Carbon

Feb 24, 2019

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has issued a new report — the first of its kind in Canada — that proves zero carbon buildings offer meaningful greenhouse gas reductions and positive financial returns.

Entitled Making The Case For Building To Zero Carbon, the CaGBC report confirms that zero carbon buildings are financially viable today, with a positive financial return over a 25-year life cycle, inclusive of carbon pollution pricing, and requiring only a modest capital cost premium. The economic case for zero carbon buildings is reinforced over time with the rising cost of carbon, increased resiliency, and by avoiding costs such as future retrofits.

Eliminating pollution from buildings is important if Canada is to meet its climate action goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The CaGBC report found that, by 2030, over four million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year can be avoided cost-effectively if the seven building types studied are built to be Zero Carbon Buildings. This represents over 22% of the 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas reductions that the Pan-Canadian Framework recognizes as potential savings from the building sector.

These emission reductions can be accomplished with a total incremental capital cost of $3.3 billion per year, which would fund the construction of approximately 47,500 new residential units and 4,800 new commercial/institutional zero carbon buildings annually.

“The cost of not adopting zero carbon buildings grows with each passing day. This study shows us definitively that Zero Carbon Buildings can be achieved with existing market-ready technologies and approaches for most building types, and that operating cost savings will cover the needed investments,” says Thomas Mueller, President and Chief Executive Officer at CaGBC. “The Canadian building industry and governments now have proof to make the changes needed to create Canada’s low carbon building stock and avoid creating buildings that will become a liability in a carbon constrained economy.”

The report applied a tailored package of carbon reduction measures across seven types of buildings — low-rise office, mid-rise office, low-rise multi-unit residential, mid-rise multi-unit residential, primary schools, big box retail and warehouses in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Nationally, the different archetypes yielded the following financial outcomes:

    • mid-rise and low-rise offices offer the highest life-cycle returns at close to 3%

    • warehouses and big box retail facilities can yield returns above 1%

    • multi-unit residential buildings and primary schools are cost neutral or nearly cost neutral

“This study shows that zero carbon buildings provide tangible benefits to owner-operators, design teams and policy decisionmakers,” says Antoni Paleshi, Senior Energy Performance Specialist (Sustainability & Energy), WSP in Canada, who co-authored the study. “There is an opportunity for building owner-operators, design teams and governments to demonstrate leadership in normalizing the processes and technologies that will make zero carbon buildings the go to industry standard for building excellence.”

Supported by the insights of this study, CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Standard provides a path for any building to reach zero carbon and contribute to the clean growth economy.

The development and publication of this study was made possible through financial contributions from Natural Resources Canada, The National Research Council, Public Services and Procurement Canada, The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, REALPAC, the Government of Nova Scotia and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia.

Read the full report

Related Articles


Latest Articles

  • Global Leadership & Local Support: GoodWe’s Commitment to Innovation and Quality

    Global Leadership & Local Support: GoodWe’s Commitment to Innovation and Quality

    June 19, 2024 GoodWe is a global PV inverter manufacturer and smart energy solution provider with nearly 5,000 employees worldwide, which has resulted in a well-established track record of over 71 GW of installations in over 100 countries and regions as of the end of 2023. A recently announced partnership with Guillevin marks their first… Read More…

  • TSBC Directive: Advertising Requirements for Licensed Contractors

    TSBC Directive: Advertising Requirements for Licensed Contractors

    June 18, 2024 This directive, published May 2, 2024, is being issued by a provincial safety manager pursuant to section 30 of the Safety Standards Act. On September 6, 2022, changes to the Safety Standards General Regulation came into effect that require licensed contractors to publish their company name and Technical Safety BC licence number… Read More…

  • TSBC Announces Adoption of BC Electrical Code, 2024 Edition

    TSBC Announces Adoption of BC Electrical Code, 2024 Edition

    June 18, 2024 Effective March 4, 2025 the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, 26th Edition, Safety Standard for Electrical Installations, Canadian Standards Association Standard C22.1-24 is adopted as the BC Electrical Code. All electrical work subject to the BC Electrical Code must comply with the updated edition effective March 4, 2025. All code-related information bulletins… Read More…

  • Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    Investment in Single-Family Homes Continues to Rise for April

    June 14, 2024 Month over month, investment in building construction increased 4.5% to $20.4 billion in March. The residential sector was up 5.4% to $14.3 billion, while investment in the non-residential sector increased 2.3% to $6.1 billion. On a constant dollar basis (2017=100), investment in building construction increased 4.1% to $12.5 billion in March. Investment in single-family homes continues to rise Investment in… Read More…


Changing Scene

  • Ascot acquires NRG Management

    Ascot acquires NRG Management

    June 20. 2024 Ascot Capital Group is pleased to announce that it has acquired NRG Management, a local lighting agent in the Quebec market. NRG will begin representing Stanpro for projects effective August 5, 2024, which will allow Stanpro to participate more effectively in specification projects and design-build than it can today with its direct… Read More…

  • OmniCable Announces Partnership with Cascadia Sales

    OmniCable Announces Partnership with Cascadia Sales

    June 18, 2024 OmniCable, an industry-leading redistributor selling wire, cable, fiber, and other communications and electrical products exclusively to distributors, is proud to announce its partnership with Cascadia Sales to represent OmniCable’s complete product line in Canada. Cascadia Sales represents manufacturers in the electrical and lighting industry in the British Columbia market. “We are thrilled to begin this partnership,” said Georgia… Read More…

  • Agence Ricard Announces the Appointment of a New Marketing Director

    Agence Ricard Announces the Appointment of a New Marketing Director

    June 18, 2024  Agence Ricard is pleased to announce the appointment of Clémence Marseille as its new Marketing Director. Clémence brings with her a rich experience of more than 10 years in the field of marketing, including 5 years specifically dedicated to the electrical industry. Her expertise and strategic vision will be invaluable assets to support and… Read More…

  • Electrical Safety Authority and Proof Strategies Reveal the Truth About Unlicensed Electricians with Award-Winning Safety Campaign

    Electrical Safety Authority and Proof Strategies Reveal the Truth About Unlicensed Electricians with Award-Winning Safety Campaign

    June 18, 2024 The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) and Proof Strategies have received seven awards from the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), including 2024 ACE Best Creative Campaign, for the outstanding “Don’t Risk It” campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the risks of unlicensed electrical work. ESA engaged Proof Strategies to develop the integrated communications campaign,… Read More…