Building Soulutions to Climate Change: How Green Buildings Can Help Meet Canad’s 2030 Emissions

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The CaGBC was invited to provide recommendations in response to the Vancouver Declaration
on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which committed Canada to meeting or exceeding the federal government’s 2030 target of a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report outlines four key recommendations aimed at meeting Canada’s climate change targets while fueling the growth of Canada’s sustainable building industry. The recommendations are substantiated by research from WSP Group and Acton White Associates, commissioned to examine the carbon savings potential of existing buildings and net zero buildings, and also to analyze the required investment and economic benefits.

The four recommendations include new data proving the effectiveness of these measures,
if taken immediately:

    • Meet Canada’s climate change targets by investing in and providing incentives for energy efficiency improvements (such as recommissioning, deep retrofits, solar and renewable onsite energy systems, and switching of fuel systems) in existing buildings commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings over 25,000 sq.ft, to reach high-performance energy efficiency. The report finds that if such measures are taken by 2030, Canada will reduce GHG emissions by 19.4 million CO2e tonnes (or 44 per cent) from the 2005 baseline, with energy-related cost savings of $6.2 billion and direct and indirect GDP impacts of $32.5 billion.


    • Strengthen building performance by advancing building energy benchmarking, reporting and disclosure initiatives – including expanding the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Program. To date, over 13,000 buildings have used Portfolio Manager, but investment is needed to expand this service and support a wider range of buildings types.


    • Invest in net zero buildings by supporting a National Net Zero Building Initiative to create a Canadian standard to guide the industry. The report finds that if all new buildings above 25,000 sq. ft. were built to be net zero carbon between now and 2030, GHG emissions for this sector would be 17 percent lower than those in 2005, equal to a 7.5 megatonnes GHG emissions reduction.


  • Reduce the Government’s GHG Emissions by adopting advanced high-performance green building measures for federal building renovations, new construction and leased properties, and, where appropriate, net zero demonstration projects for new construction. Implementing carbon reduction activities for federally-owned buildings over 25,000 sq.ft, which account for three to five per cent of building sector emissions, will result in GHG emissions reductions of approximately 480,000 tonnes and cost savings of approximately $170 million annually.

The following infographic details some key findings from
the Building Solutions to Climate Change report.

New UBC student residence to be among world’s tallest wood buildings

A rendering of the Tall Wood Building residence. Credit: Acton Ostry Architects

A rendering of the Tall Wood Building residence. Credit: Acton Ostry Architects

One of the tallest wood buildings in the world will soon be constructed at UBC, providing housing for hundreds of students. When completed, the $51.5-million residence building will stand 53 metres tall (about 174 feet).

“This beautiful, new tall wood building will serve as a living laboratory for the UBC community,” said Martha Piper, interim president. “It will advance the university’s reputation as a hub of sustainable and innovative design, and provide our students with much-needed on-campus housing.”

Construction of the 18-storey tall wood student residence will begin later this fall, and the building is set to open in September 2017. It will house 404 students in 272 studios and 33 four-bedroom units, and feature study and social gathering spaces. There will also be a ground-floor lounge and study space for commuter students.

“This project shows that when it comes to building with wood, B.C.’s innovation can’t be beat,” said Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. “By taking advantage of new building technologies, we’re also expanding our markets for B.C. wood products – and supporting jobs in the forest sector.”

In addition to its primary function as a student residence, the building will serve as an academic site for students and researchers, who will be able to study and monitor its operations.

The tall wood building will consist of a mass timber superstructure atop a concrete base. Wood is a sustainable and versatile building material that stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide. UBC aims for the building to achieve a minimum LEED Gold certification, a rating system that evaluates how environmentally friendly a structure is in its design and energy use.

UBC’s Student Housing and Hospitality Services, the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, Forestry Innovation Investment, Natural Resources Canada and B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations are contributing funding for the building.

Any additional costs related to design and construction have been funded through external sources. Students will pay the same for rent at the tall wood building compared to similar accommodations at other student residences on campus.

UBC Properties Trust is managing the project. The project’s architect, Vancouver’s Acton Ostry Architects, is working in collaboration with tall wood advisor Architekten Hermann Kaufmann from Austria. Fast + Epp, another local firm, is the structural engineer.

[Learn more] Via UBC News

Wood Specification Green Building Rating System Guides

Via Naturally Wood

The Building Green with Wood Toolkit is a resource when considering building rating systems, maximizing LEED points using wood, codes and any other “green”-related initiatives. This PDF includes all 10 Wood Specification – Green Building Rating System Guides. 

wood specification-passive design...

Wood is energy efficient

Via Naturally Wood

Energy efficiency is one of the cornerstones of green building: roughly 40%-50% of North America’s carbon emissions are attributed to buildings and nearly all of that is the energy they consume.

Wood buildings can require less energy to construct and operate over time. Through research and development, the wood industry continues to develop building systems that offer greater air tightness, less conductivity and more thermal mass – including prefabricated systems that contribute to the low energy requirements of Passive House and Net Zero designs.

Wood is more efficient than steel and concrete in the amount of energy used in processing, manufacturing and transporting to the worksite (the embodied energy). Plus, wood is completely renewable and recyclable.


Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments

wood-as-a-restorative-material-in-healthcare-environmentsDavid Fell, Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd. and Sally Augustin, Design with Science has released a report that draws the link between the use of wood in the built environment and pro health outcomes. While the study of wood and health is relatively new in the field of environmental psychology, a clear relationship between the presence of other natural elements has been established in built environments. Early evidence suggests that the human relationship with wood is similar to previously investigated responses of our species to other natural materials and nature cues. That is, wood is a biophilic material that reduces stress reactivity when present.

The argument for increased use of wood in healthcare environments in this paper is based on research-based logic indicating that wood, other natural materials, and nature surrogates provide positive health effects for humans in any type of built environment.

Icon of Click here to view the full report: Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments.pdf Click here to view the full report: Wood as a Restorative Material in Healthcare Environments.pdf (561.8 KiB)

Innovative Detail: Wood Innovation and Design Centre

wood innovation design centre

As of last October, the world’s tallest wood building constructed in modern times, using contemporary techniques, could be found on the campus of the University of Northern British Columbia, in the city of Prince George. The eight-story, 96-foot-tall Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC), designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture (MGA), sits on a concrete raft slab and contains 51,000 square feet of office and educational space. Leasable office space occupies the top three floors while the lower levels are dedicated to the university’s proposed Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design. At ground level, a double-height, triple-glazed curtainwall with laminated veneer lumber (LVL) mullions connects an interior sheathed entirely in wood to the street outside.

The building was designed to showcase the aesthetic and structural capabilities of lumber in commercial construction. “Twelve years ago, we were waking up to the role of buildings in climate issues,” MGA principal Michael Green says. Contemporary construction is predominantly with steel and concrete—materials whose combined production tally up to 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But timber, when forested responsibly, can reduce emissions and store carbon, which are the most effective methods to preserve the planet, Green says. “That understanding is something we use in suburban housing—building with 2x4s for example,” he says. “But as the world trends toward urban environments, we need taller buildings that incorporate how we built before steel and concrete were in fashion.” Green cites Japanese temples and Egyptian tombs—tall timber structures that stand for millennia and still function as public space today—as examples of low environmental impact buildings with longevity.


Future of Mid-Rise and Mass Timber Wood Construction in B.C. (Part 5 of 5)


Advancements in wood technology, systems and products, together with performance-based building codes have fueled interest in building with mass timber in mid-rise construction and even taller buildings.

Developments in both wood frame and mass timber are bringing mid-rise wood buildings to a new level of affordability and transforming our understanding of what is possible with wood construction.

Wood also plays a key role in reducing a project’s environmental footprint. Wood products have less embodied energy, are responsible for lower air and water pollution, and have a lighter carbon footprint than other commonly used building materials.



October 29, 2014 – History of Wood Construction and Forest Management in B.C. (Part 1 of 5)

November 26, 2014Mid-Rise Construction in B.C. (Part 2 of 5)

December 17, 2014Wood Design and Construction in Mid-Rise Buildings (Part 3 of 5)

January 28, 2015A Mass Timber Case Study: The Earth Systems Science Building, UBC (Part 4 of 5)

A Mass Timber Case Study: The Earth Systems Science Building, UBC (Part 4 of 5)


The University of British Columbia’s Earth Sciences Building has an extensive and innovative use of cross laminated timber. The facility has two five-storey wings connected by an atrium, and provides modern learning spaces for earth sciences students and leading-edge laboratories for researchers.

A five-storey cantilevered staircase in the atrium built entirely of solid timber is the first of its kind in the world. Being column free, the staircase is a captivating work of art. The building has a hybrid floor system of wood and concrete that is lighter than solid concrete and provides excellent sound absorption.



October 29, 2014 – History of Wood Construction and Forest Management in B.C. (Part 1 of 5)

November 26, 2014 – Mid-Rise Construction in B.C. (Part 2 of 5)

December 17, 2014Wood Design and Construction in Mid-Rise Buildings (Part 3 of 5)

Wood Design and Construction in Mid-Rise Buildings (Part 3 of 5)


When it comes to mid-rise development, architects have a code-compliant, cost-effective resource in wood. Over the years, wood frame construction has shown strength, longevity and stability, and is widely considered economical.

Mid-rise wood frame buildings are designed and built with innovative products and state-of-the-art engineering techniques. Fire risks are analyzed and assessed by experts and safety performance that meets the building code is commonly demonstrated through alternative solutions.



October 29, 2014History of Wood Construction and Forest Management in B.C. (Part 1 of 5)

November 26, 2014 – Mid-Rise Construction in B.C. (Part 2 of 5)

Mid-Rise Construction in B.C. (Part 2 of 5)


Mid-rise construction (four to six storeys) is becoming increasingly popular as a means of boosting densification, containing urban sprawl, and respecting infrastructure limits while maintaining neighbourhood charm and community appeal. Mid-rise wood frame construction is often faster, material costs can be lower, and construction is simpler.

In British Columbia, mid-rise wood frame construction of five and six storey buildings has proven popular with developers, architects and contractors. These projects vary in size, scope and style with new and creative ways of applying traditional wood products are continually being developed. In Kamloops, B.C., Library Square is one of the first mid-rise wood frame construction in the province.


October 29, 2014History of Wood Construction and Forest Management in B.C. (Part 1 of 5)