Over the last decade, Canada has asserted itself as a world leader in the green construction sector thanks to national policy and country-wide effort to reduce and minimize carbon footprints and promote sustainability.
Much of Canada’s success in the green building sector is a result of the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) implementing the now global Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which was established nationwide in 2002 and models a similar U.S.-based program founded in the late 90s.
The program, which sets the international benchmark for green building standards, is recognized in 150 countries.
“LEED works because it recognizes that sustainability should be at the heart of all buildings – in their design, construction and operation,” notes the LEED website.
Thomas Mueller, the founding director of the CaGBC, thinks the program is popular in Canada because it makes good sense and appeals to the Canadian population’s environmental conservation history.
“We were an early adopter,” said Mueller. “It’s partly the proximity to the US. We were looking for a green building guideline or rating system and it seemed that LEED had all the qualities we were looking for, including a holistic emphasis on areas like water and building materials.”
LEED has in fact been so successful in Canada that in the 14 years since it has been in existence, the CaGBC has certified over 2,600 LEED buildings in Canada and registered over 6,000, the second highest number in the world.
“Outside of the US, Canada has the largest number of both LEED-certified and LEED-registered buildings in the world. On a per-capita basis, I think we are on par with the US,” Mueller points out.
Green buildings aren’t only functional, when done right they can be aesthetically beautiful as well, as an article from the Spring issue of Corporate Knights highlights, “When buildings are designed to elegantly tap into nature’s flows of sunlight, water and air, a graceful green simplicity is achieved,’ reads the report.
From green roofs to waste diversion, Canadian builders have grown to be highly creative in their green design, which has translated to increased sustainability and better environmental awareness.
These builders, who are committed to long term sustainability, have erected more than 231,608 square meters of green roofs, while also saving 12.8 billion liters of water and recycled more than 1.6 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste.
Earlier this month, the country’s greenest builders were celebrated at the annual Canadian Green Building Awards held by the Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine (SABMag). This year’s winners personify the Canadian pursuit to meld form and function with green sustainability initiatives.
“The whole point of the program is to promote sustainable, high performance buildings amongst building owners, designers and contractors, and to show them where building design can go,” said SABMag publisher and awards organizer Don Griffith.
One of this year’s big winner was the Fort St. John Passive House in Fort St. John, B.C. The single-family home, which was completed by the city of Fort St. John, is all about showcasing energy conservation strategies.
“The house was sponsored by the City of Fort St. John, which is an energy producing economy, but they sponsored construction of this Passive House residence to demonstrate to home builders and the public how they can build houses that use a lot less energy,” Griffith explained.
Across the country in Hamilton, Ontario, residential multi-unit builder Denis Vranich is also incorporating the latest green technologies into his building designs. Vranich, who heads Urban Life Residential, has constructed and revitalized a number of buildings in Hamilton and says green building isn’t only environmentally smart, it is also a wise economic investment.
“When we incorporate more natural light options, it cuts down on overall energy costs,” said Denis Vranich. “The same thing happens when we look at more efficient ways to heat and cool buildings as well.”
Vranich believes the future for the green building sector in Canada is promising, especially as more millennials demand their homes have a minimal carbon footprint.
“We are seeing new trends when it comes to home buyers and renters,” said Denis Vranich. “They want to know that they are doing all they can for the environment and companies that take this into consideration will do well.”
Recently, the Ontario city of Sudbury announced they were expanding their Green Economy North program, which launched this year. The addition will now offer incentives for landlords of rental buildings to adopt environmentally friendly practices related to carbon footprint reduction and water conservation. The program, which is the first of its kind, can potentially serve as a model for landlords across the country.