News Brief

Zero-Carbon Buildings a Sound Investment in Canada

New buildings with net-zero-carbon operations will provide a 1% return over 25 years, says a new study.

On average, across building types and throughout Canada, net-zero-carbon buildings can provide a positive financial return of 1% with an 8% capital cost premium.

Source: Canada Green Building Council
Decarbonization of the building sector is vital to countries striving to dramatically cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. But might there be less altruistic reasons to pursue net-zero carbon? A recent study, Making the Case for Building to Zero Carbon, says yes.

Commissioned by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and conducted by WSP, the study found that net-zero-carbon buildings “are both technologically feasible and financially viable.” On average, across building types and throughout Canada, they “can provide a positive financial return of 1%, and require a modest 8% capital cost premium,” the report claims, adding that returns will increase as carbon prices go up.

In order to achieve these returns, the study authors recommend three strategies for building owners and operators:

  • Use life-cycle costing as a tool to maximize carbon reductions and associated carbon costs.
  • Use energy-efficiency incentives to achieve a net-zero-carbon design.
  • Follow an integrative design, construction, and commissioning process that includes training for tradespeople.

There are recommendations for policymakers as well, including increases in carbon pricing over time.

The study also points to some benefits of net-zero-carbon buildings that were not accounted for in the financial analysis. These include the avoided costs of future re-investment. “Buildings not built to be near-zero carbon emissions will require major investments in retrofits of mechanical equipment, ventilation systems, and building envelopes (walls, roofs, and windows) by 2050 to meet Canada’s targets,” says the report. “These retrofits will be costly and disruptive to building owner-operators and their tenants.”

More on net-zero carbon and net-zero energy

Urgent: Zero-Carbon Buildings Needed

First Standards for Carbon Neutral Buildings Launched in Canada

From Norway, A New Standard for Energy-Positive Design

For more information:

Canada Green Building Council


Published June 3, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, June 3). Zero-Carbon Buildings a Sound Investment in Canada. Retrieved from

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