Canadian Consulting Engineer

History of Green Building Rating Systems in Canada

August 1, 2008
By Marshall Leslie



Canadians have been concerned about energy efficiency and building performance for a long time. In the building science and research community, as early as 1960, the Division of Building Research at Ottawa’s Institute for Research in Construction began publication of a series of “Canadian Building Digest” reports that dealt extensively with moisture, air leakage, thermal loss and durability. In total, 250 subject reports were published, and almost all of them circulate to this day, demonstrating a national appetite for such information.

Widespread public concern about energy efficiency emerged under the guise of energy security following the first oil boycott of 1973. Shortly afterwards, Public Works Canada introduced Meriwether software for analyzing mechanical and HVAC systems in federal buildings, and more measurement and design tools were released over the next decade. Most governments offered demonstration programs; and the first building envelope council was formed in 1987.

The first building environmental assessment program in North America was introduced to the International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA) annual meeting in summer 1989, in Vancouver. Canadians heard about “Building Environmental Performance Assessment Criteria” (BEPAC) from British speakers and the seeds of a new discipline were planted in what became the Environmental Research Group at the School of Architecture of the University of British Columbia. BEPAC was the first building rating system in North America– BREEAM Canada, GBTool™, C-2000, GreenGlobes™, BOMA Go Green and LEED all owe a debt to BEPAC, under which 18 buildings were assessed.

A succession of other building rating tools now began to appear:

1. “C-2000 Program for Advanced Commercial Buildings” in 1993 was a demonstration program for office buildings developed by the CANMET Energy Technology Centre at NRCan (Natural Resources Canada); 13 buildings were designed under C-2000.

2. Toronto Better Buildings Partnership also launched in 1993 to raise energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions; 625 buildings have been evaluated.

3. “BREEAM-Canada, Plus 1132, an environmental performance assessment for existing office buildings” was published by the Canadian Standards Association in 1996.

4. The 1998 “Green Building Challenge” in Vancouver assessed projects from 14 nations using GBTool™ (now SBTool™).

5. The Commercial Building Incentive Program started in 1998 by NRCan offered an incentive for the incorporation of energy efficiency features. More than 550 buildings were evaluated.

6. Green Globes™ for Existing Buildings was launched in 2000 and 21 projects had been rated in Canada by the end of 2007.

7. LEED Canada NC-1.0 was released in 2004. It and other versions of LEED had certified 91 projects in Canada by the end of 2007.

8. BOMA Go Green was launched in 2005 by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada and over 500 buildings had been rated by end-2007.

Since 1993, more than 1,800 building projects have been rated to one or another of the environmental building rating and design guidelines mentioned above. In addition, other important programs flowed: Canada’s Green Plan, The Energy Efficiency Act, the Guide to Green Government and the Model National Energy Code for Canada. If there were a sustainable building Olympics, Canada would be in the “medal” round.

*The above is extracted from “The Green Building Market in Canada: Non-Residential Advances,” June 2008, by Marshall Leslie of Toronto. The report was based on a project undertaken for the Canadian Forest Service (Natural Resources Canada) and the Canadian Wood Council using research by Leslie and McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics.


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