The Climate-Friendly Construction Boom Set To Sweep Canada
A new development located between downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec is being hailed as “the most sustainable community in Canada”, CBC reports. Previously a polluted, 34-acre plot of land, the new residential development heats homes with post-industrial waste in the winter, and uses the adjacent Ottawa river to cool them in the summer. The result? A revolutionary zero-carbon energy system designed to fuel the development well into the future.
Zero-Carbon System a “Massive Victory”
The need for zero-carbon energy systems is ever-pressing. In 2020, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from buildings totalled around 87.8 megatonnes, accounting for 18% of total emissions. In fact, Canada’s building sector is the third biggest source of emissions following behind oil and gas production and transportation. As such, Scott Demark, project developer and president of the development's energy provider, Zibi Community Utility, calls the completion of the project a “pretty massive victory”. Although Zibi’s net-zero energy system has been no easy creation, Demark says government requirements and incentives would make it possible for other developers to achieve the same. "I wish everybody was doing this. I wish the rules were tighter so you had to do it," he said. However, the federal government’s existing strategy concerning green buildings is "not enough and it's not fast enough."
Government Support Needed
Canada aims to cut building-sector emissions by 37% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. According to Jesse Helmer, a senior research associate at SPI, the federal government needs to take drastic action to improve energy-efficiency within homes to reach these goals. "What the federal government does on that front is critical," Helmer said. Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson agrees with this sentiment. "There are significant additional resources that we are going to need to mobilise," he said. "The federal government has made significant commitments but it's not nearly enough." Once the government's carbon-friendly building strategy is revealed in 2023, Wilkinson also expects a resulting surge in eco-friendly building construction and job openings.
Creating Carbon-Friendly Homes
By making an effort to purchase an energy-efficient home, buyers on the real estate market can more easily do their part to help slash carbon emissions. A trustworthy and reputable realtor, in particular, is key to helping buyers find the right homes with carbon-neutral features to suit their individual needs. Alternatively, opting for climate-friendly renovations and retrofits can also help Canadians enjoy energy-efficient homes. The Canada Greener Homes Loan, for example, will provide 175,000 eligible homeowners with grants and interest-free loans ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 to pay for energy retrofits (the loans must be repaid within one decade). Installing solar panels and air sealing, as well as replacing insulation, windows, and doors are just some of the eligible eco-friendly retrofits on offer. There’s also the 2021 Canada Green Homes Program, which previously awarded $38 million in grants to 10,300 homeowners.
Despite the promise the new zero-carbon development in Ottawa holds, economists and analysts are also making efforts to highlight the pressing problem of labour shortages in Canada’s construction industry; these shortages threaten to prevent the future construction of new carbon-friendly homes (or the retrofitting of existing ones). Construction job vacancies across Canada have increased by almost 160% within the past two years. Ultimately, increasing the number of carbon-friendly buildings in Canada can only happen once the national labour shortage is resolved. "We can design as many programs as we want … but until we start targeting the labour side of that issue, I think we're going to run into some scaling problems," Helmer commented.