Should the government or the building design & construction industry lead?
IMHO the future for Canadian buildings will include carbon accounting based on mandatory reporting requirements. Remember at the recent COP21 meeting in Paris, Prime Minister Trudeau signed Canada up to reduce GHG’s by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The UK and Europe are ahead on Carbon accounting in property development. Leading property RIET’s such as British Land in the UK, report their building portfolio Carbon footprint annually and are rated in Carbon Disclosure Project Leadership Index. How long before North American property RIET’s with trans-national occupants go down this route? As a construction business today you face a choice, get in front of this trend or react to it.
There are moves afoot already in Canada. On Feb 25, 2016 the Ministry of Energy issued a proposal to implement an Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRP) regulatory requirement for large buildings. This regulation would precede pending passage of amendments to the Green Energy Act, 2009 (Bill 135). The “mandatory reporting bus” is leaving the station soon, the building design & construction industry will soon have to react again rather than be ahead of the curve.
A smart construction firm in Canada today should be looking to get in front of this mandatory Carbon / GHG reporting (accounting) requirement. I know of one very large construction firm in Canada starting to do just this already and a very large trans-national retailer that is reporting annual GHG emissions from all their stores in Canada and the rest of the world. There is even an ISO standard for guidance (ISO 14064). However to try and simplify things, what does all this mean? It means accounting, reporting and verification of Carbon / GHG’s. It all adds up to accountability and raising standards via, local, national and international peer pressure. In this game, the lowest wins!
For construction firms, Carbon / GHG accounting procedures need to be developed for;
- GHG’s from demolition and waste disposal;
- Embodied Carbon from materials used in construction;
- GHG’s generated from logistics.
In the future a construction firm should be able to report;
- Total embodied Carbon and GHG’s generated in the construction of any building;
- Predicted energy use and GHG emissions over the life of the building.
Total embodied Carbon adds up and seems to be too big to ignore. For example, the total Carbon footprint of annual Canadian new, non-residential construction, is over 2.3 million metric tons of CO2e. That is equivalent of 487,000 cars driving for a year (Source: Athena Sustainable Materials Institute).
For RIETS, Carbon / GHG accounting will mean implementing accounting procedures for;
- GHG’s from building operating energy;
- GHG’s from maintenance and replacement;
- GHG’s from waste disposal;
- GHG’s from end of building life disposal (this may encourage adaptive reuse);
- Being rated within the Carbon Disclosure Project Leadership Index.
This all sounds like a monumental task, and it is. However other parts of the world are far ahead of North America and IMHO Canada needs to catch up at a minimum and ideally, as I am Canadian, set the best example. This example should, in my view, be industry lead by construction firms.