CEO Letter – December

I hope you were able to join us at Summit 2020. It was a great event! This year’s Passive House Canada (PHC) conference was online using a unique web provider. I was pleased with the outcome of Summit 2020 — it brought together the Canadian and International Passive House community to learn and connect. Thank you to the presenters, organizers and to those who attended. I hope to see you next year in person at our conference.

On December 11, the federal government released its updated Climate Plan. We’re pleased with a number of issues it addresses. Notably, it focuses on “Making the places Canadians live and gather more affordable by cutting energy waste,” demonstrating that energy efficiency has now moved to the top of the agenda.

In contrast, The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change started with carbon pricing and lumped efficiency related policies into “complementary actions.”

This change in priorities demonstrates the government is now connecting climate action to people — their health, comfort, economic security, and desire for environmentally sustainable job creation. These are messages we have been communicating to all levels of government, with the support of our like-minded partners.

There is significant emphasis throughout the plan on bolstering Canadian manufacturing of green products, including building materials and technologies. High-efficiency space and water heating equipment and windows, are all mentioned in the plan.

Importantly, the plan recognizes “the need to retrofit the vast majority of Canada’s buildings and homes”.

Federal Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, delivered her Fall Economic Update in late November and, although details are scarce, we are generally pleased with it (you can read our statement here). The government takes important steps toward a green and inclusive recovery with new investment in building retrofits and training and skills development, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable populations.

The announcement of $2.6B for home retrofits, in addition to the Canada Infrastructure Bank $2 billion investment in large-scale building retrofits, goes to recognize the critical role of the building sector in reaching Canada’s climate targets, creating jobs, and transitioning to a competitive, low-carbon economy. Along with the additional $12B support for the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, where borrowers are required to offer units that adhere to high energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards, these investments help create the predictable demand needed for workforce planning and development, including recruitment and skills training which are critical to deliver on energy efficient,
affordable, green buildings.

With billions about to be spent on home energy retrofits we have serious concerns.We know energy retrofits done the wrong way can pose serious health issues, with compromised indoor air quality and mold growth being two significant issues. We encourage the federal government to ensure energy auditors are trained to evaluate home health and comfort as part of their energy audit and to include recommendations around heat recovery ventilation systems and fuel switching to renewable energy.

PHC recently teamed with Efficiency Canada to pen a letter to the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry warning that Canada’s building energy codes fail to provide for rapid transition to high-performance, energy efficient and carbon-neutral buildings.

We encourage Minister Navdeep Bains to clearly mandate Canada’s national model codes development community to develop a highly energy efficient and zero-carbon, outcomes-based model building code as a way to reduce energy waste and emissions associated with energy use in new buildings.

Federal and provincial governments jointly committed to developing and adopting “increasingly stringent model building codes starting in 2020, with an ultimate goal of having all new buildings constructed to a ‘net-zero energy ready’ standard by 2030. However, challenges related to an uncertain and limited scope for the net-zero energy ready (NZEr) objective have compromised the role our national model codes are expected to play as a tool for achieving NZEr standards in buildings, as well as the government’s stated commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050,” our letter states.

We believe, as a result a disconnect exists, in part, because the process used to develop the model codes is geared towards creating a minimum legal performance standard. It is based on consensus of what minimum standards should be and is ill-suited to adopting a building energy code aimed at pulling Canada towards leading-edge construction practices. Instead, building energy code provisions have been pulled downward to the lowest common denominator among provincial governments, as well as organizations with a vested interest in maintaining mediocre building energy performance standards.

We know buildings, generally, are the second or third highest impact areas of energy use where a significant decrease in energy use and associated emissions can be achieved while enhancing the amenities provided to Canadian home and business owners. Stringent building energy codes can deliver good local jobs as well as stable and comfortable environments to live and work in that provide increased air quality, resilience, and durability. Moreover, stringent building energy standards implemented today ensure we avoid locking in inefficiencies and emissions from new buildings that are incompatible with a net-zero emissions economy.

At Passive House Canada, we remain committed to engaging all levels of government to help ensure they meet their net-zero carbon building target. We’re doing so through education, technical support and policy development. Stay tuned …