CaGBC outlines green construction recommendations for COVID-19 infrastructure stimulus projects

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) says it believes the COVID-19 crisis has “precipitated what could be the tipping point we need top transition Canada to a green recovery.”

“CaGBC’s advocacy team takes a measured, data-based approach to help shape the policies and programs that promote the adoption of, and investment in, green building,” CaGBC spokesperson Lesley Sturla wrote last Thursday. “As the Canadian government begins to plan its approach to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, CaGBC has been working hard to communicate the opportunity green building presents.”

“CaGBC has shared its industry perspective with key federal ministers. The brief, entitled, Ready, set, grow: How the green building industry can re-ignite Canada’s economy,” provides guidance on how strategic investment in green building could play a significant role in re-igniting Canada’s economy while also helping meet the country’s climate goals.” she wrote.

These recommendations target three key areas of investment: Workplace training and skills development, removing barriers to, and encouraging deep energy retrofits, and shifting the industry to zero carbon building.

In detail, here are the recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Workforce Development

Canada currently does not have enough skilled workers and professional expertise to meet the demands of the building industry. A highly trained workforce is critical to delivering low carbon new construction and deep energy retrofits at scale. The federal government can play an important role in catalyzing the reskilling and upskilling of Canada’s construction workforce, but provincial and territorial governments will be instrumental in the development and delivery of aligned educational programming.

The federal government should:

  • Invest $500 million for workforce development and training to grow Canada’s low-carbon workforce;
  • Allocate up to $1000/employee to access existing low-carbon training programs through existing providers such as the Canada Green Building Council, the Canadian Institute for Energy Training, Eco Canada, Passive House Canada, post-secondary institutions, professional associations, and trade unions; and
  • Invest in the development, testing, and measurement of new approaches to low carbon skills training, such as micro-credentialing or creating a pathway to achieve a “green seal” (a spinoff of the Red Seal designation) for traditional construction-related professions transitioning to the low-carbon economy.

Recommendation 2: Retrofit Economy

Retrofitting Canada’s existing building stock to become energy efficient and low carbon will be essential if Canada is to meet its emission targets by 2030. Yet despite aging infrastructure and economically viable projects, renovations are not happening at the depth or pace necessary. Barriers to these projects include the perceived high level of risk in energy efficiency investments, deficiencies in market capacity to identify retrofit measures, and limited lending products to support deeper emission reductions.

The federal government should:

  • Allocate $50 million to stimulate the development of shovel-ready projects through 0 per cent financing of energy audits (e.g., ASHRAE Level 2 and 3);
  • Allocate $10 billion through the Canada Infrastructure Bank towards a first loss loan reserve allowing qualified lenders to recover 80 per cent of the principal and accrued interest on loans supporting deep retrofit projects in the event of default;
  • Require the use of a standardized project origination approach such as the Investor Confidence Project to help ensure that projects will achieve stated energy efficiency or carbon reduction targets as well as secure the foundation for the bundling of projects for investment;
  • Support the amalgamation4 of retrofit project investments into non-investment grade “green” bonds through a “warehousing” model, which are not secured by credit, and have them insured by an institution like the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CHMC); and
  • The government should leverage its procurement power by requiring all federally-owned or federally funded provincial and municipal building projects to accelerate capital improvement plans that prioritize emission reductions.

Recommendation 3: Zero Carbon New Construction

Zero carbon buildings offer both economic and environmental benefits and are today both technically feasible to design, construct and operate. Despite a positive financial return over a 25-year life-cycle, there is still a capital cost premium of approximately 8 per cent for large buildings, which limits widespread adoption at this time.

The federal government should:

  • Require all federally funded, owned or leased building projects to move towards zero carbon. This requirement would include all newly built, owned, or leased federal buildings as well as the existing building stock, along with municipal corporate investments (i.e. Libraries, firehalls, community centres, etc.);
  • Leverage the procurement process to require that eligible firms demonstrate low carbon development experience and/or a commitment to training to incent industry innovation and restructuring. Contract agreements should be amended to require project teams to demonstrate experience with zero carbon buildings or to create incentives for on-the job zero carbon training; and
  • The federal government should grant up to 10 per cent of the development costs for public and private sector buildings to build to low carbon. Funding should be scaled based on the emission reduction potential of the new construction design (at a graduated scale of 75%, 90%, or 100%) and with a portion being granted for actual performance one-year post-occupancy. Those projects that achieve zero carbon (100%) would be prioritized for investment and preferential funding.


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