CEO Letter – May 2022

Toronto Gets its Passive House in Order 

Spring is in the air and similar to the season, the City of Toronto is turning greener! With its latest version of the Toronto Green Standard (TGS), the city is accelerating its effort to build net-zero buildings with a new top energy efficiency tier (Tier 3) that is adjacent to the Passive House Standard. The building standard is a 3-tier system of performance measures, and a key tool for the city to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for buildings by 2040.  


I had the opportunity to make a deputation and submission in December at the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee where I recommended the acceleration of the TGS. In response to our submission, and the advocacy of other like-minded organizations, the city upped their ambition by adopting the higher efficiency tier on an accelerated timeline. Prior to the submission, we had been meeting with Toronto City Councillors to introduce them to Passive House and the need to accelerator the adoption of TGS versions. 


Tier 3 is currently voluntary and incentivized by the city but it becomes mandatory for all new for mid- and high-rise residential and non-residential buildings by 2028. The TGS addresses a number of the city’s environmental priorities such as air and water quality, biodiversity, enhancing the urban forest, managing stormwater onsite and providing new energy efficient buildings. It’s a good day to celebrate the advancement of high-performance buildings in Toronto, other cities and provinces take note! 


Passive House’s Climate Conference  

Passive House Canada will be holding its annual conference, In the Face of Climate Change, a hybrid virtual and in-person event, in Victoria, B.C. on May 25-27th. Canada is warming faster than the global average and too many people living in Canada are experiencing the devastation of climate change, like flooding, extreme heat waves, and wildfires.  


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report concluded that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5C is beyond reach.” Buildings play a major role in climate change. They contribute 18 percent of Canada’s total carbon pollution, and over 50 percent in large cities, and they are the primary place residents turn to stay safe during extreme weather events. A recent Intact Centre on Climate Adaption report on extreme heat risk in Canada found extreme heat events are on the rise. The report says that high-performance buildings can help mitigate their impact, but only if they are designed well, “for instance, with respect to its orientation, ventilation, window-to-wall ratios and thermal mass.” Thankfully, there is standard for that! Our annual conference will delve deep into how Passive House design and technology addresses our need for net-zero and climate-resilient buildings to confront head-on the face of climate change. 


We have a number of outstanding sessions planned, including keynote sessions featuring Dr. Melissa Lem, President Elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Mike Wilson, Director of Campus Planning and Sustainability, University of Victoria. Other notable speakers include Canada Infrastructure Bank, Perkins + Will Architects, National Resources Canada, Peel Passive House, and ERA Architects, to name just a few! If you have not already, you can register here, we are excited to get together once again and learn all that is being done in the high-performance building world.  


Notes from the Netherlands 

I had the good fortune to spend some time in the Netherlands cycling, where I also took the time to meet with folks working in building and retrofitting high-performance buildings. I heard all about the Energiesprong program to retrofit entire neighbourhoods, both the success and the shortcomings and about the role of federal and local governments. With regards to Energiesprong, it has been a wonderful way of capturing the imagination of many, and I hope the federal Liberals take note of its strengths and weaknesses as they build their similar Greener Neighbourhood pilot program that was funded in the 2022 Budget.  


Thank you,