CaGBC tables recommendations for Canada’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery

As the Canadian government begins to prepare for an economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, CaGBC’s advocacy team has released its industry perspective on how strategic investment in green building could play a significant role in re-igniting Canada’s economy.

The organization shared how its Ready, set, grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy can help meet the country’s climate goals with key federal ministers.

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash.

CaGBC states that, similar to the 2008 recession, “the country will turn to its economic pillars, including construction and infrastructure projects, to help re-ignite the economy and create urgently needed jobs.”

“While we find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances, this remains the critical decade for climate action. The decisions the government makes now could set a new course that can benefit Canadians for the next 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years,” says CaGBC.

The brief’s recommendations target three key areas of investment: Workplace training and skills development; removing barriers to, and encouraging, deep energy retrofits; and shifting the industry to zero-carbon building.

According to CaGBC, Canada currently does not have enough skilled workers and professional expertise to meet the demands of the building industry. The organization suggests that a highly trained workforce is critical to delivering low-carbon new construction and deep energy retrofits at scale. The first recommendation—Workforce Development—advises the federal government to:

  • Invest $500 million for workforce development and training to grow Canada’s low-carbon workforce;
  • Allocate up to $1000/employee to access existing low-carbon training programs through existing providers such as the Canada Green Building Council, the Canadian Institute for Energy Training, Eco Canada, Passive House Canada, post-secondary institutions, professional associations, and trade unions; and
  • Invest in the development, testing, and measurement of new approaches to low-carbon skills training, such as micro-credentialing or creating a pathway to achieve a “green seal” (a spinoff of the Red Seal designation) for traditional construction-related professions transitioning to the low-carbon economy.

Recommendation 2—Retrofit Economy—suggests that the federal government should:

  • Allocate $50 million to stimulate the development of shovel-ready projects through 0 per cent financing of energy audits (e.g., ASHRAE Level 2 and 3);
  • Allocate $10 billion through the Canada Infrastructure Bank towards a first loss loan reserve allowing qualified lenders to recover 80 per cent of the principal and accrued interest on loans supporting deep retrofit projects in the event of default;
  • Require the use of a standardized project origination approach such as the Investor Confidence Project to help ensure that projects will achieve stated energy efficiency or carbon reduction targets as well as secure the foundation for the bundling of projects for investment;
  • Support the amalgamation of retrofit project investments into non-investment grade “green” bonds through a “warehousing” model, which are not secured by credit, and have them insured by an institution like the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CHMC); and
  • The government should leverage its procurement power by requiring all federally owned or federally funded provincial and municipal building projects to accelerate capital improvement plans that prioritize emission reductions.

Recommendation 3—Zero Carbon New Construction—includes:

  • Require all federally funded, owned or leased building projects to move towards zero carbon. This requirement would include all newly built, owned, or leased federal buildings as well as the existing building stock, along with municipal corporate investments (i.e. Libraries, firehalls, community centres, etc.);
  • Leverage the procurement process to require that eligible firms demonstrate low-carbon development experience and/or a commitment to training to incent industry innovation and restructuring. Contract agreements should be amended to require project teams to demonstrate experience with zero-carbon buildings or to create incentives for on-the-job zero-carbon training; and
  • The federal government should grant up to 10 per cent of the development costs for public and private sector buildings to build to low carbon. Funding should be scaled based on the emission reduction potential of the new construction design (at a graduated scale of 75%, 90%, or 100%) and with a portion being granted for actual performance one-year post-occupancy. Those projects that achieve zero carbon (100%) would be prioritized for investment and preferential funding.