Green Building Summit Demonstrates Growth of Industry
More than 1,000 attendees were on hand earlier this month for the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) inaugural summit, entitled Shifting Into the Mainstream. It appeared clear from the speakers and attendees that green building is now becoming much more mainstream. And with the first pilot projects for the new LEED Canada system reporting at the event, feedback was very positive about how the future landscape should look.
By Rob Colman
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System has been helping businesses in the U.S. and Canada for nearly 10 years design more energy efficient and environmentally conscious office buildings. However, a greater push is needed if we hope to see this system create transformative change in our built environment.
As Thomas Mueller, President of CaGBC, noted at the summit, in 2006 400-500 projects had been registered LEED. But with climate change being such a problem, that really isn’t enough. The CaGBC wants to register 100,000 buildings and 1 million homes by 2015. “That’s 50 megatons of greenhouse gases cut, one third of the federal goal,” says Mueller. “We have to slice energy and water use in half (in these properties) by 2015.” He goes on to suggest that a long-term goal of carbon neutral buildings and communities are what’s necessary by 2030.
For its part, the CaGBC is helping make this happen with the creation of the LEED Canada initiative, the next generation of LEED, which will consider the whole life cycle of a building, It has also launched the Green Building Performance Initiative, which is engaging building owners in the institutional and commercial sector to improve the performance of existing buildings. As part of this initiative, there are over 400 pilot projects underway.
“It’s really about engaging the sector in performance benchmarking, measuring performance, auditing buildings and also working with the sector in terms of what improvements could be made in new buildings,” says Mueller.
Signs of encouragement
There were many signs of encouragement at the summit that attitudes and outlooks are shifting. For instance, Sylvie Lachance, executive vice-president of First Capital Realty, noted that her company announced in May 2006 that all of its new construction would be built in accordance with LEED standards.
Lui Mancinelli, senior vice-president and managing principal at architecture firm HOK Canada Inc. noted that in his organization worldwide, there are about 150 sustainable projects around the world, 27 certified projects and about 600 LEED accredited professionals working for the organization. In other words, the knowledge base is getting stronger.
Jon Taylor, co-owner and director of construction company Govan Brown and Associates, is also seeing uptake in green building in his business. “Three years ago we had no LEED Commercial Interior (CI) projects,” he says. “Two years ago we had two, last year we had six and today we have eight.
“I see just about every RFP that comes through our firm, and I’d say about 50 per cent of them now have some kind of LEED CI component. Which begs the question, What’s happening with the other 50 per cent?”
Taylor still sees a lack of experience and education in the workforce. He is working to change that by encouraging LEED accreditation in his own organization. “Next to safety, we’re spending the second most amount on LEED certification,” he notes.
Challenges still ahead
The biggest challenge that Mancinelli sees is monitoring and tenant follow-up.
“The reality is, we’re having challenges even when the building is being built for one organization,” says Mancinelli. The problem, as he outlined, is that even shortly after occupancy, some tenants and owners make changes in the interiors that affect the way that the building systems operate – to the point that they’ve risked losing LEED points. “Managing those kinds of things require a concerted effort on behalf of the owners, managers and building operations people.”
What is encouraging is that, with the new pilot projects underway, building owners and managers are beginning to understand their buildings better. As Tom Kovendi, director of portfolio operations in Toronto for the Cadillac Fairview Corporation, being part of the pilot project has “started to get our operators used to thinking green. The attitude to the documentation process has also changed. People are starting to get acclimatized to the new reality.”
As much as anything, it’s about having good information. “We didn’t have our building information in a well-organized manner,” notes Harvey Barth, partner at Crown Realty Partners. “The numbers took a while to put together. But now, each building operator tracks their own building effectively.”
What is clear is that many more people at all levels are learning the importance of effectively managing green buildings. Certification is no longer going to be a simple plaque in the lobby of the building; it is going to require engagement at all levels throughout each organization involved.