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Simplicity, accessibility are pivotal to CaGBC’s ZCB–Design Standard v.03

“The intent is to [...] open the standard to as many projects as possible.”

July 12, 2022  By  Anthony Capkun

July 12, 2022 – The Canada Green Building Council says its latest Zero Carbon Building–Design Standard (v.03) demonstrates “a continued commitment to getting more buildings to zero faster”.

The document prioritizes reductions in carbon emissions and embodied carbon, says the council, and “encourages energy-efficient design that promotes good grid citizenship”.

“These updates to the ZCB–Design Standard are informed by two years of market and project feedback, as well as changing market expectations of operational and embodied carbon emissions,” explains Thomas Mueller, president & CEO, CaGBC.

According to Mueller, CaGBC research shows industry needs flexibility to achieve zero carbon, and “That’s what our standard provides without compromising our target to eliminate carbon emissions from buildings”.


Version 3 offers additional thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) flexibility to incentivize projects to move away from combustion. Projects that eliminate combustion for space heating are no longer required to meet a TEDI target. Now, design teams can optimize their building enclosures and HVAC design “for the best possible returns”.

“This change gives projects the freedom to invest project dollars to achieve the greatest impact at the lowest cost,” added Mark Hutchinson, CAGBC. “For example, projects might choose to invest in a geo-exchange system and completely electrify rather than invest in additional envelope efficiency, but still use air-source heat pumps and backup natural gas.”

Version 3 also puts a limit on combustion, preventing it from being used unless the outdoor air temperature is below -10 C. This change renders the electrification of heating as the new default, only stopping at the point of system limitation. While some heat pump applications go as low as -30 C, the standard settles on -10 C; it does not prescribe a solution, but makes “substantial electrification a requirement”.

The new version also introduces a prerequisite for embodied carbon, with the flexibility to choose between absolute embodied carbon targets or relative improvements over a baseline. The new limit is a critical next step toward CAGBC’s goal of reducing embodied carbon 40% by 2030, explains the council.

“These changes were designed with an eye to the simplicity, accessibility of the standard and a clear focus on driving carbon reductions,” said Doug Webber, chair of CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Steering Committee. “The intent is to reduce the cost and effort required to achieve the desired outcomes of certification, and to open the standard to as many projects as possible.”

Every building must be a zero-carbon building if Canada is to meet its climate targets, CaGBC insists.

DOWNLOAD CAGBC_Zero_Carbon_Building-Design_Standard_v3 (PDF).

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