What you need to know for building green in the GTA (and beyond) in 2020

On Tuesday, the CaGBC’s Greater Toronto chapter hosted a breakfast detailing sustainability policy updates and anticipated low-carbon programs affecting the area’s AED sector in the coming year.

The session was moderated by Bryan Purcell of the The Atmospheric Fund, and included speakers from the GBCI, Ontario Ministry of Energy, the IESO, the City of Toronto, the CaGBC and Enbridge.

Here are some of the highlights for architects.

Ontario Ministry of Energy
Brian Byrnes, Senior Advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Energy, shared about the province’s energy use benchmarking program for large buildings. In its first year, the program achieved 45% compliance—a rate that he considers good, considering that similar programs in the states achieved between 40-55% compliance in their first year.  65% of respondents submitted certified data.

Current regulations make energy use reporting mandatory for all buildings above 50,000-square-feet, starting this year. However, the province is currently proposing a change to non-mandatory reporting between 50,000 to 100,000 square feet—a proposal that has elicited concern from multiple organizations, including the OAA. A decision is anticipated in March.

Byrnes emphasized that even if the change goes through, the Ministry will provide support for voluntary reporting of energy use of all buildings over 50,000 square feet.

Ontario is currently the only province with mandated energy benchmarking—a step that is critical in reducing energy and carbon use in the buildings sector. “The largest barrier to identifying cost and energy efficiencies in existing buildings is a lack of access to the data needed to measure and track performance,” said Byrnes. He says that a 10% energy savings is achieved simply by benchmarking alone, as it creates user awareness of energy use.

Robert Edwards detailed how the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a crown corporation, has taken over the role of providing provincial electricity incentive programs, following the discontinuation of programs from local distribution companies. They currently offer a slate of interim programs—from upgrades to lighting for small businesses to systems upgrades for large industry—under the banner Save on Energy.

Edwards highlighted the Energy Performance Program, for buildings that consume over 1,500,000 kWh annually. The pay-for-performance program allows for energy upgrades to be performed in any way a building owner sees fit—whether through renovations, upgraded equipment, or behavioural changes. If the project achieves at least a 5 percent savings over two years, the program will pay an incentive of $0.04/kWh annually, for up to two and half years. The program also pays up to $1,500 towards an energy model of the building.

The IESO will be accepting applications for these programs until the end of 2020.

City of Toronto
Rae-Anne Miller, Manager of Public Energy Initiatives, Environment & Energy Division at the City of Toronto discussed the City’s accelerated climate emergency plans. In May, her division is bringing forward a plan to achieve the city’s goal of being net-zero emissions by 2050. This will entail all new buildings being net-zero by 2030, and all existing buildings to undergo energy retrofits by 2050.

Starting in 2020, the Toronto Green Standard has made absolute energy performance targets mandatory. In 2022, the current “Tier 2” performance requirements will shift and become the minimum required “Tier 1” standards.

The city is accelerating its low-cost energy retrofit loans program. Through the Better Buildings Partnership, support services are available to identify energy efficiency opportunities and access available incentive programs for all building types. No-cost consultations are also now available for homes and businesses considering the addition of renewable sources, including solar photovoltaics and geothermal energy.

Carolyn Varady, Energy Advisor for Commercial New Construction at Enbridge, summarized the utility’s incentive programs. Enbridge’s Savings by Design program offers a free, full-day design charette for design-stage projects in the commercial, residential, and affordable housing sectors, as well as incentives for realized efficiency gains. Varady noted that the incentives are higher in the affordable housing program, and that multi-unit buildings may be income-qualified to participate in this program.

Brandy Burdeniuk, Chief Customer Officer of GBCI Canada, reported that LEED v4 has seen 1,200 registered projects. The organization has introduced a streamlined process that is accelerating the path to registration.

The organization is introducing a new TRUE certification for zero-waste operations in building operations. Another new initiative is  ARC, a platform for performance-based tracking of energy, water and waste in buildings, intended to integrate with existing applications that track these measures. ARC is free for CaGBC members. Training hours for TRUE and ARC can be used towards LEED recertification.

Jeff Ranson, Regional Director of CaGBC – GTA reported on the national Disclosure Challenge, in which five large portfolio owners disclosed energy use across their holdings, as a spur towards national energy benchmarking.

The organization is advancing an Investor Confidence Project that aims towards standardizing the retrofit planning process. The program provides certified financial cases for retrofit plans, creating documents that are easier for lenders to understand and accept.

CaGBC will be releasing version two of their zero-carbon certification in March. They are also researching a companion to their trades skills gap report that will quantify the missing skills among architects and engineers to meet the anticipated demand for low-carbon buildings in the near future.

Finally, CaGBC and TAF are partnering on a Low-Carbon Buildings Workplace Coalition. “The performance of buildings we need to see represents such a massive amount of work. Do we have the workforce to do it?” asked Juliana Dutkay of CaGBC Toronto, who is leading the initiative. The program will consider all aspects of the construction ecosystem, from skills gaps to developing more efficient construction processes.