News Brief

First Standards for Carbon Neutral Buildings Launched in Canada

The new zero carbon standard is designed to assess carbon emissions from commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings across Canada.

Carbon neutral building pilot project in Canada

Canada Green Building Council's Zero Carbon Pilot Project: Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) New Headquarters. Toronto, Ontario.

Photo: DTAH
The World Green Building Council launched its Advanced Net Zero project in 2016, with the goal of eliminating carbon emissions from all new buildings by 2030, and from every building by 2050.  Now, the Canada Green Building Council has introduced the first national standard to emerge from that campaign, a certification program focused solely on carbon neutrality.

Eliminating all emissions from buildings “is a very ambitious target,” said Mark Hutchinson, vice president of Green Building Programs at Canada Green Building Council, “but it’s simply a recognition of what is going to be needed.”

Certification requires project teams to:

  • Evaluate the type of energy their project will use and the carbon associated with generating that energy;
  • Reduce thermal energy demand by meeting envelope and ventilation efficiency targets;
  • Offset carbon emissions from the building’s operations by the generation of renewable energy either on or off site; and, ultimately,
  • Achieve zero net carbon emissions. 

The standard also requires designers to report on the anticipated peak energy demand of the building. There is no specific target, but by considering peak demand, a designer will better understand the carbon-intensive energy sources that may be used during peak demand periods.

Similarly, the standard also requires the assessment of the embodied carbon of structural and envelope materials—but does not require that low-carbon materials be chosen.  “Just by undertaking that exercise there is a significant advantage in moving the industry forward,” said Hutchinson.

New buildings can earn a design certification, which requires them to generate 5% of their energy from onsite renewables and to meet targets designed to reduce heat loss from a building’s envelope and ventilation.

Existing buildings can earn a performance certification. It’s based on twelve months of operations, with the performance verified every year.

New buildings that have earned the design certification can, after a year of operation, apply for dual certification in both design and performance.

Besides Canada, nine other green building councils have also committed to developing a carbon neutral buildings standard. Australia is expected to release its next. That standard is being developed jointly by the government and the Green Building Council of Australia.

Editor's note: The Canada Green Building Council does not include emissions from transportation in its zero carbon standard.

For more information:

Canada Green Building Council Zero Carbon Standard

Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Buildings

World Green Building Council

Published July 10, 2017

Cohen, N. (2017, July 10). First Standards for Carbon Neutral Buildings Launched in Canada. Retrieved from

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