Calgary Needs a ”3T” Sustainable Building Policy Now
We need a policy that has clear TARGETS, is TRANSPARENT, and requires THIRD PARTY VERIFICATION
On Monday, July 5, City Council will consider revisions to The City’s Sustainable Building Policy, which governs construction projects funded by taxpayers. The policy was last updated in 2019, when the requirement for LEED certification was removed in order to make the policy more flexible and allow The City to use other green building certification tools. Unfortunately, the result was a policy that left too much up to the goodwill of individuals in charge of projects.
On June 23, the revised policy came before the Standing Policy Committee on Utilities and Corporate Services. Below is the Hub’s submission. The heat wave last week showed that climate change is not a distant threat but a current reality. It is more important than ever that The City act now to do what it can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero, and to prepare for the impact.
Councillor Farrell asked that Administration return to Council in September with additional changes to create a "3T" policy.
What you can do: Write to your City Councillor using [email protected], and tell them that you want The City to take a leadership role on getting taxpayer-funded buildings to net-zero.
SUBMISSION ON THE SUSTAINABLE BUILDING POLICY
We support adding climate change considerations to the policy statement.
We congratulate the project team for taking an important step by integrating climate mitigation and adaptation measures. While including climate change considerations is a step in the right direction, time is short. We need more than steps; we need strides. We need leaps and bounds.
Now is the time for stronger targets, metrics and monitoring.
We are concerned that the changes include a climate risk & resilience assessment and a GHG mitigation assessment only "where required." The Sustainability Principles mention 'reducing and avoiding GHG emissions' but do not have net-zero emissions as a stated goal, and the mechanisms to achieve the principles are weak.
According to the National Climate League, Calgary ranks fifth among Canada’s large cities in numbers of sustainable buildings, with 1.5 buildings per 100k residents, far behind Vancouver’s 8.6 per 100k. To catch up, Calgary must make great strides, not small steps. The long lead time for planning and constructing public buildings means that City policy must provide clear leadership now to demonstrate that Calgary takes climate change seriously, and give industry the signal that it needs to develop the skills and workforce necessary to implement the new direction.
In contrast, the City of Vancouver has laid out a path for high performance buildings that meet Passive House and Net Zero Energy certified standards.
In Toronto, the Toronto Green Standard requires similar performance levels to Passive House for large buildings at Tier 4, the level to which all new large buildings in the city will be constructed by 2030. Municipally owned buildings will be required to achieve Tier 4 in 2026.
A Toronto Zero Emissions Building plan is also in the works that sets out an energy performance and GHG reduction pathway to 2030 zero emissions for five building archetypes typically built in Toronto. Toronto is also planning to have 100% of new buildings designed and built to be near zero GHG emissions by 2030. [Source]
Calgary has chosen a different approach. In the last major amendment to the Sustainable Building Policy, the policy moved away from requiring LEED certification. We understand that LEED did not suit all projects. Some flexibility will achieve better results. However, the current policy allows too much flexibility by putting the minimum performance standards and certification targets in the hands of the Project Steward, and allowing changes to the Policy targets throughout the project.
The result is a lack of transparency and accountability. Major projects such as the Event Centre have still not made public their minimum performance standards. It is not enough to do good; The City must be seen to be doing good in order to lead the way.
That is why today we are asking you to go further in the amendments to the Sustainable Building Policy.
1. We ask that The City require that clear goals and deadlines be added to the policy to implement zero carbon emission buildings by 2030.
Without clear targets, GHG emission assessments will merely provide information about aspirational principles, and we will continue constructing buildings that will need to be retrofitted as soon as they are completed.
2. We ask for greater transparency and accountability for minimum performance standards on all projects using taxpayer money.
To date, we have been unsuccessful in getting information about the environmental standards of the four capital projects. It is not enough to do good; The City must be seen to be doing good in order to lead the way. To this end,
3. We ask that The City amend the policy to require third-party certification for minimum performance standards, with a priority on zero carbon emissions and other mitigation measures.
We understand that not all standards (e.g., LEED, BOMA BEST) suit all projects. Some flexibility will achieve better results. However, the current policy allows too much flexibility by putting the minimum performance standards and certification targets in the hands of the Project Steward, and allowing changes to the Policy targets throughout the project. Without a requirement for third-party certification, the current policy lacks teeth. The only consequences for not meeting the minimum performance standards are that a written rationale must be provided.
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