Sustainable Biz Canada

New Energy Star certification for high-rise residential


Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has introduced an Energy Star certification for new mid- and high-rise residential buildings for an Ontario pilot program.

Energy Star“The Energy Star Multifamily High-Rise (New Construction) Pilot Program broadens the Energy Star program suite in Canada, starting with the Energy Star for New Homes program for low-rise homes,” said NRCan spokeswoman Catherine Leroux. “The program supports climate change mitigation by certifying construction of new multi-family high-rise buildings whose energy performance is above the current building code in Ontario.”

Energy Star was created 17 years ago as a voluntary partnership between the Canadian government and more than 1,500 organizations working to use natural resources more wisely through greater energy efficiency.

NRCan administers the Energy Star program. The Energy Star trademark applies to the certification and labelling of a wide range of consumer products, as well as to benchmarking and labelling in the building sector.

NRCan working with EnerQuality

NRCan has a licensing agreement with EnerQuality Corporation, a Toronto-based certifier of energy-efficient homes in Canada, to deliver this new mid- and high-rise residential buildings program. This includes marketing, recruitment, training, quality assurance, certification and labelling of buildings that meet program requirements, as well as maintaining the integrity of the Energy Star brand.

The five-year pilot program will recognize buildings that are designed 15 per cent more energy-efficient than those built to the provincial building code, along with other program requirements. The buildings will be registered with the Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool to monitor and manage energy performance.

EnerQuality led steering and technical committees — with representation from utilities, builders, service providers and licensed professionals — in reviewing potential energy targets using a market-driven approach. The committee members concluded the 15 per cent target is ambitious, but also technically feasible and cost-effective.

The target will be bolstered by modelling, testing and verification requirements that improve upon the existing Ontario Building Code as well as the Toronto Green Standard and Enbridge Gas Distribution’s Savings by Design green building initiative.

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For builders and building owners, the new certification should mean lower operating costs, increased rental value and occupancy rates, and greater engagement with clients and their communities. It should result in superior energy performance and lower energy costs for homeowners and tenants.

Ontario pilot program could roll out nationally

“There has been increasing demand for higher-density forms of housing in Ontario, from stacked townhouses to mid- and high-rise buildings,” said Leroux. “By implementing a pilot program in Ontario, NRCan is addressing this significant market opportunity and program gap.

“The program is being piloted in Ontario to test the program’s effectiveness, address barriers and generate significant market traction. The Ontario pilot will undergo an evaluation to capture lessons learned and inform a potential national rollout of the program.”

A national program would further contribute to achieving Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target as well as reducing consumers’ energy costs.

The program — which should also create jobs in skilled construction, consulting and design — was launched on Oct. 23. Many builders have already expressed interest in pursuing the new Energy Star certification, according to Leroux.

Leroux said the Energy Star for New Homes program has helped lower greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 metric tonnes, which is equivalent to taking 16,000 cars off the road. To date, 83,872 certifications have been issued through 799 participating Energy Star for New Homes builders.

BOMA Canada’s view of NRCan and Energy Star

BOMA Canada represents the Canadian commercial real estate industry on matters of national concern and oversees BOMA BEST, North America’s largest environmental assessment and certification program for existing buildings.

BOMA Canada manager of environmental standards Hazel Sutton said the new Energy Star certification is important because not all multi-family apartment builders and owners belong to organizations such as BOMA.

“We need more rental accommodations to be just as efficient as the best office buildings. If anything, there’s even a more direct correlation for the tenants who are going to be in the building. It’s where you’re living so you want it to be as comfortable and efficient as possible. It’s a natural fit.”

Sutton will be interested to see how these new buildings perform after they’re constructed and receive Energy Star certifications.

“I think it will be great to see how we can apply all of the known energy-efficient, water-efficient and waste-efficient operations and maintenance practices, that we know work well for commercial buildings . . . (how they) work in these buildings, and how we can learn from each other.”

NRCan and BOMA Canada have worked closely together on BOMA’s Net Zero Awards, which recognize the leadership of owners, developers, designers and/or managers of buildings that demonstrate significant progress along the path towards net‐zero energy.

This strengthening of the relationship between the two organizations over the past year-and-a-half has left Sutton impressed.

“They seem to have a solid and clear understanding of what’s necessary to get our greenhouse gases in check,” she said.

“They really know what they’re doing. Some really smart people are working on this and they’re approaching it from all kinds of sides so they’re not putting all of their eggs in one basket. They appreciate that it’s a complex problem, and that’s how they’re approaching it with their strategy. It’s exactly how I want them to be doing it.”

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Steve McLean

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Steve is a veteran writer, reporter, editor and communications specialist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of print and online outlets. He’s the author of the book Hot Canadian Bands and has taught reporting to college students. He is based in Toronto.

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