The commercial construction industry is at the forefront of Canada's efforts to combat climate change. With the built environment accounting for a significant portion of the country's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there's an urgent need for a transformative approach. According to the Canada Green Building Strategy, a comprehensive blueprint was designed to revolutionize the way we think about, design, and construct our buildings.
The Current Landscape
Canada's built environment is vast, encompassing over 16 million dwellings and nearly half a million commercial and public structures. This sector alone contributes to 13% of the nation's direct GHG emissions, a figure that rises to 18% when considering off-site electricity generation. With emissions on an upward trajectory and the increasing threats posed by climate change, there's a pressing need for action.
Canada's green building industry currently employs over 462,000 workers, ranging from disciplines in:
- Interior and product design
- Data science
- Building material and equipment manufacturing and supply
- Construction trades
Construction trades in Ontario are already facing labour and supply chain shortages.
The Canada Green Building Strategy is not just about reducing emissions. It's about creating a resilient built environment that can withstand the challenges of extreme weather and changing climate conditions. The strategy emphasizes the dual importance of reducing emissions and enhancing resilience.
Canada has legislated a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In the interim, the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan sets out a potential buildings sector contribution that would reduce direct residential, commercial and institutional building emissions to 53 Mt by 2030 (37% reduction from 2005 levels).
The majority of the buildings we see today will still be standing 30 years from now. This means that while constructing energy-efficient new buildings is crucial, the real challenge lies in retrofitting the existing structures. Current retrofitting efforts, however, often fall short in terms of emissions reduction and efficiency. The strategy aims to shift the focus towards deep decarbonization.
The construction trades – contractors, plumbers, electricians, and more – play a pivotal role in realizing the vision of the Green Building Strategy. Over 78% of building emissions come from space and water heating, primarily from fossil fuel-based systems. Transitioning to electrified heating systems, bolstered by a well-insulated building envelope, is a key step towards decarbonization. This transition presents ample opportunities for skilled tradespeople, from installing advanced heating systems to retrofitting buildings for enhanced insulation.
The Economic Potential
The green building sector in Canada currently employs over 462,000 individuals. With the right investments and framework, this number could soar, potentially supporting 1.5 million direct jobs by 2030. Beyond job creation, the strategy can bolster the economy by increasing economic activity and putting more money in the pockets of Canadians.
A DataBid blog titled Ontario's Commercial Construction: Trends for the Next Decade states that the commercial construction industry in Ontario is on the cusp of significant transformation. Changing regulations, emerging technologies, and evolving market demands are shaping the Industry's future. Sustainability has moved beyond a trend to become a cornerstone of modern construction.
The Path Forward
Achieving the ambitious goals set out in the Canada Green Building Strategy requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders. Collaboration between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments is essential to drive the transformative actions needed. By setting high standards and preparing the market to meet them, Canada can position itself as a global leader in green construction.
The Canada Green Building Strategy is more than just a plan; it's a vision for a sustainable future. By focusing on both new constructions and retrofitting existing buildings, the strategy aims to create a built environment that's not only energy-efficient but also resilient against the challenges posed by climate change.
For the construction trades, this strategy presents a world of opportunities, from mastering new technologies to playing a pivotal role in shaping Canada's green future. The path ahead is challenging, but with collaboration, innovation, and determination, Canada's construction industry can rise to the occasion, pioneering a sustainable future for all.
Posted by Judy Lamelza