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Built for the City of White Rock, B.C., this Stantec-designed green building received a LEED gold certification — one of only two gold projects at that time — because of its exemplary use of water and energy (arcitect Busby Perkins + Will).

Photo: Jim Burns
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Building up sustainability
Canadian contractors and building associations are taking the steps to become green
By Devon Babin

Learn more:
• Green technologies
• Green Team Challenge
• Simmer in the city

External links:
• The Canadian Green Building Council
• EnergyStar
• Tartan homes
In cities and suburbs across the country, condos and bungalows have been popping up on every available lot in recent years. But as the housing boom continues to sound, contractors are trying to build more environmentally sound and energy efficient abodes.

The Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) is a coalition of different segments of the design and building industry whose mission is to speed up the availability of green buildings in Canada. CaGBC has a detailed set of criteria, known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System (LEED), that it uses to define what constitutes a green building in a Canadian context. Buildings are certified silver, gold or platinum based on a point system that takes a whole-building perspective and considers the specific constraints and goals of each project.


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"The LEED rating system was initiated by the U.S. Green Building Council. We have adapted the LEED rating system for new construction or major renovations," says Luana Mirella, communications coordinator for the CaGBC. Certified buildings in Canada include a secondary school and a daycare in Vancouver, an Aboriginal student center at the University of Manitoba, a terminal at the Winnipeg Airport, the offices of an insurance company in Dartmouth and a diverse mixture of other projects such as fire stations and libraries across the country.

The rating system credits innovation in buildings, based on the sustainability of the site, the water efficiency of the building, energy and atmosphere, the materials and resources used and the indoor environmental quality.

For a structure to be certified by LEED, every credit that is sought after requires specific documentation. The documentation is extremely precise and thorough, and in the end ensures the building is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Currently, the LEED system is not being used for residential homes.

"There is a LEED residential rating system in its pilot stage in the U.S.," says Mirella. "They have a few test programs that they are applying the rating system to before they go public. The CaGBC is looking to adapt that system to Canada, but it will take a few years."

There are other programs ensuring energy efficiency for homes currently being used in Canada. Tartan Homes, based in the Ottawa area, is a reputable builder using EnergyStar, commonly known for saving energy through efficient household appliances. Now, the brand is being used to rate residential structures.

"EnergyStar has a series of criteria that you have to do to comply," says Bruce Nicol, vice-president of Tartan Homes. "It’s based on a points system. The main items are the amount of insulation in the homes. Attention has to be paid to the sealing of windows and doors."

Beyond the structure, how a home is heated plays a major part in ensuring energy efficiency. For Nicol, the efficiency of a home’s furnace is a determining factor, and he recommends the inclusion of a heat recovery ventilator that reduces the amount of heat lost from a home by using a heat exchanger that warms incoming fresh air with a stream of outgoing warm air.

Unlike CaGBC and the LEED certification program, for EnergyStar a third party consultant tests each unit. Once certified, each home is registered.

There were some challenges to overcome for Tartan Homes as a result of the new rating system.

"There was some reeducation in the field about how do the installation and sealing properly," said Nicol. Energy efficient homes can cost more to start out with, but the initial costs will be won back over years of lower energy costs.

Although Canada is still in the beginning stages of taking the first steps, the building industry is indeed moving toward CaGBC’s ultimate vision of  "a transformed built environment, leading to a sustainable future."

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