SDTC report offers blueprint for greener commercial buildings
By Robert Colman
On Friday, November 23rd, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) released a new report that provides a blueprint for the creation of greener commercial buildings in Canada. The report highlights the technical and non-technical changes in the design, construction and maintenance of Canada’s commercial buildings that need to be made to reduce their energy use, water consumption and waste production.
By Robert Colman
“The commercial building sector accounts for about 14% of secondary energy use in Canada and has seen energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase 42% between 1990 and 2004,” said Vicky J. Sharpe, president and CEO of SDTC. “For this sector to change direction, we need a whole new approach to both the way we design, build and use commercial buildings as well as the regulations and policies that guide these activities.”
Among the technical changes recommended, the report stresses the importance of improved system and equipment efficiencies as well as the development of integrated design processes.
“Right now, too many of the key players in the development and operation of your typical commercial building work in isolation, focusing on their niche of expertise,” said Dr. Sharpe. “We need real-world demonstrations that break the silos in the design process to align the concepts of liability and economic viability to comfort and usability.”
Among the non-technical changes recommended, the report stresses the importance of accurate data, improved eco-labeling and life-cycle-based performance standards that will enable certification of buildings on a life-cycle rather than on an as-built basis.
“Switching to a life-cycle approach is crucial if we are to truly achieve on-going sustainability in our commercial buildings,” said Rick Whittaker, vice-president, Investments at SDTC. “Progress has been made over the last few years with the rise of LEED designation and other tools, but more work needs to be done to establish at-a-glance, meaningful measurements that give owners and tenants sustainability indicators to help in their decision-making.”
The Sustainable Development Business Case Report on Commercial Buildings – Eco-efficiency is the fifth in a series of reports produced by SDTC. These reports are the result of extensive consultations with industry, policy makers and academia. This input is analyzed along with market data and current reports and studies to arrive at an investment report that creates a common vision of market potential. These reports are used to guide the investment decisions of SDTC.
“These reports are like gold dust,” noted Dr. Sharpe in conversation with Energy Management. “If you’re an entrepreneur, they tell you where you might want to focus your activity because it explains what the market needs. If you are in business, you’re going to understand what you can do to improve the efficiency of the business, or at least hedge against the negatives. If you’re an academic, you’re going to look for areas of focus for post-grads, and if you’re in any level of government, you’re going to be able to say ‘here are policy areas, standards or regulations that would help either remove impediments from the marketplace, the poor performers, or else move us forward and progress toward higher quality products.’”
She also stressed once again the importance of commercial buildings in any GHG emissions reduction plan.
“If you think about it, if you make a poor decision around buildings from an energy efficiency perspective, you’re going to live with it for 60 years or more. People don’t tear down buildings very often so you actually encumber future generations with poor decisions.”
Previous SD Business Case reports addressed the subjects of Renewable Electricity, Clean Conventional Fuels, Biofuels, and Hydrogen. They are all available in the Knowledge Centre at www.sdtc.ca.