Your lawyers since 1722

Our Hero is Zero: Leading Canada’s built environment towards net zero carbon emissions

100 Murray Street, Ottawa, ON, above


With June 2018 officially marking the half way point of the CaGBC Zero Carbon Pilot Program, CaGBC’s Fin MacDonald updates us on the latest findings from the program.

As Canada’s first green building program to make carbon emissions the key indicator for building performance, CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Pilot Program is a two-year immersion program for developers and designers undertaking zero carbon developments in new or existing buildings across Canada. The program is designed to recognize excellence and leadership in the field, as well as to inform the development of tools, policies and pathways to accelerate market development. Sixteen buildings of various types across Canada are piloting the Zero Carbon Building Standard.

The pilot participants have told us that participating in the program has been a great opportunity to show leadership. As the world zeros in on CO2 as public enemy number one, these pilots know that the work we’re doing will help shape Canada’s approach to reducing emissions for years to come. For the participants this comes with a great deal of pride.

Certified Zero Carbon Projects

CaGBC has certified three projects prior to the one year mark, two of which are Pilot projects. evolv1, a commercial office in Waterloo, ON, was the first project to achieve ZCB-Design certification in April 2018. Designed to be financially viable and replicable, the project presents a convincing argument that Zero Carbon development is the way of the future. Mohawk College’s Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation in Hamilton, ON, was the second project to achieve ZCB-Design certification, and will serve as a learning laboratory for the next generation of green building and renewable energy professionals.

Lastly, CaGBC certified the first ZCB-Performance project in June 2018, when 100 Murray St. in Ottawa became the first building to demonstrate zero carbon performance over a twelve month period. Currently LEED O+M certified at the Gold level, the building clearly demonstrates that LEED certified buildings are great candidates for Zero Carbon certification.


Evolv1, Waterloo, ON above


Industry Training

The one year anniversary of the program was celebrated with a Zero Carbon Buildings Summit in Toronto prior to CaGBC’s annual Building Lasting Change conference, which this year also hosted WorldGBC Congress. The Summit brought together 160 industry professionals across Canada for a full day of education, networking and collaboration. Summit highlights included:

  • Updates on an upcoming national Zero Carbon Lifecycle Costing Study
  • Zero Carbon retrofit challenges
  • Innovative products and technologies
  • An interactive workshop on challenges and solutions

In addition to the Summit, conference delegates had access to an education stream dedicated to Zero Carbon topics.

CaGBC has also made a concerted effort to spread knowledge and awareness of the Zero Carbon Pilots and the Program in cities across Canada.  We led a half day workshop in Vancouver on Zero Carbon in April, with plans to roll it out to other cities this fall. We have also been holding showcase events for the pilot projects in major cities and speaking at national and international events. There are a total of 17 CaGBC zero carbon events scheduled for 2018.


In addition to speaking about zero carbon and promoting the Pilot projects across the country, CaGBC is also actively involved in two research projects aimed at helping to increase the viability of zero carbon in Canada.

  1. Zero Carbon Lifecycle Costing Study: One of the key barriers to increasing the market uptake of zero carbon buildings is the uncertainty related to cost. To address this barrier, CaGBC has partnered with WSP, REALPAC, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Natural Resources Canada and other Government of Canada Departments to undertake a lifecycle costing study. The study will compare the capital and lifecycle costs of zero carbon buildings to the costs of similar code level buildings.
  2. Low-Carbon Skills Gap Analysis: CaGBC is currently undertaking a study to determine the skill requirements, availability, and training required for trades in the construction of low and zero carbon buildings in Ontario. The study will inform the development of an education and training roadmap that will identify core trade skills, training requirements, and delivery models to optimize the uptake of low and zero carbon building skills.
Mohawk College’s Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation, Hamilton, ON, above


Final Thoughts

The main finding of our Pilot Program at the halfway point is that getting the right team together from the outset is absolutely vital. Great communication is also very important, and this has to be enabled by having a project organizational structure that facilitates great communication between all members of the team.

At the CaGBC we know that what we are attempting to do with this shift to zero carbon is not rocket science. These buildings are designed using proven technology, and by choosing the right team these technologies can work together synergistically.

With roughly 30 years left to achieve an 80% reduction in GHG emissions globally, it is imperative that the buildings that are built today be designed to be zero carbon. Those that are not will only face costly retrofits in the future.

Fin MacDonald is Manager, Zero Carbon Building Program at Canada Green Building Council. For more information about zero carbon in Canada, and the CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Program, visit