Ottawa and Provinces failing on green buildings: report
Toronto, ON — Governments across Canada received poor grades for their policies to promote green buildings in a report released December 30 by Environmental Defence. The report, Greening Canada's Buildings: Report Card, evaluates the codes, policies and programs that influence the environmental impacts of buildings. Four of the 14 jurisdictions received failing grades, and none received higher than a C plus.
Buildings have an enormous influence on many environmental issues. According to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, buildings in Canada consume 50 per cent of our natural resources, 22 per cent of all energy used and contribute to a quarter of our landfill waste.
"We acknowledge the considerable progress that the governments have made so far in encouraging green buildings," said Mike Layton Program Manager, Environmental Defence. "But building practices and our understanding of the environment have advanced considerably, and governments are not keeping up."
Ontario received the highest grade (C plus), but still showed significant room for improvement. Ontario's grade was credited to recent changes to the province's building code that included energy efficiency, as well as the implementation of land use planning strategies, such as the Greenbelt and Places to Grow, which protect undeveloped lands and encourage higher densities in urban centres. Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island ranked second-best, with each receiving a C minus for their passable efforts.
Alberta, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut all received failing grades. While these jurisdictions did show some progress in encouraging energy efficiency, their performance in other areas was poor. The federal government received a D for its efforts to promote green buildings.
The report examines the environmental impact of buildings across six categories: Land Use and Ecology; Energy; Water; Resources and Waste; Health; and, Overall Integration. The criteria within each category was collected from local, national and international standards for green buildings, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Built Green, the Toronto Green Development Standard and many more.
Recent polls have shown that an overwhelming number of Canadians favour new controls over the efficiency of buildings and are willing to pay more for homes with better energy performance.
"Buildings not only consume energy and water, but they use up other valuable resources, fill up landfills, and pave over natural areas," said Layton. "Building more efficient homes saves us money in the long run, protects our health, preserves our natural environment and decreases our contributions to global warming."
Highlights of the report's numerous recommendations include:
- Make the environment a top-level objective of the National Building Code.
- Strengthen provincial land use policies to direct growth into urban centres, encourage increased densities and promote the use of existing infrastructure.
- Include in the National Building Code energy and water efficiency requirements for all new buildings.
- Ensure that programs are available to all Canadians — homeowners and tenants — which promote energy and water efficiency in existing buildings.
The report, Greening Canada's Buildings: Report Card, is available to download for free at www.environmentaldefence.ca.