On-Site Magazine

Updated version of Zero Carbon Building Standard takes aim at embodied carbon

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March 27, 2020 by On-Site Staff

A rendering of the Arthur Meighen Building in Toronto, currently undergoing a zero-carbon retrofit. PHOTO: PSPC

A new version of the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Standard takes aim squarely at embodied carbon.

The update, released by the CaGBC earlier this month, takes the organization’s zero-carbon building rules to the next level. The original standard focused mainly on eliminating carbon emitted by buildings during their operations phase. Version 2 stipulates greenhouse gases emitted in the manufacture of building components must also be reduced or offset.

“There is no time to waste or reason to wait,” Thomas Mueller, the CaGBC’s president and CEO, said in a release. “Zero carbon buildings represent the best opportunity for cost-effective emissions reductions today. The changes we’ve made give the industry and government a clear path to show carbon leadership with positive climate action that future-proofs buildings, encourages innovation, and drives job growth,” Mueller added.

The original standard did refer to embodied carbon — requiring builders to measure and report the amount in their projects — but set no limits or restrictions. Under Version 2, any project aiming for zero carbon certification will need to reduce and offset the emissions embodied within a building’s construction materials.

The updated set of rules also incorporates best practices related to refrigerants leaks, tightens requirements for energy efficiency and airtightness, and requires builders use of at least two innovative strategies over the course of a project.

According to the CaGBC, building operations represent about 17 per cent of all Canadian GHG emissions. Meanwhile, carbon embodied in building materials and generated during construction account for about 13 per cent — making those emissions a logical next target.

As with the previous version of the standard, the zero carbon rules can be applied to new builds or retrofit projects.


Full details about the new standard are available here.