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Does your home or office hold the key to solving the climate crisis? Experts say yes

Water pipe. Smokestacks. Ợ cow.

These are the things most Canadians associate with warming planet emissions.

But buildings? Not so much – although the homes, offices and shopping malls where we spend a lot of time generate huge amounts of pollution from the oil or natural gas that is burned to power boilers, water heaters and furnaces.

In fact, the third largest buildings emission source in Canada after the transportation (cars and trucks) and oil and gas sectors.

By 2020, all buildings in Canada combined (including homes) will generate 87.8 megatons of carbon dioxide. This equates to about 19 million gasoline-powered cars a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gases. computer.

Top emission sources in Canada. In 2020, buildings generate a total of 87.8 megatons of carbon pollution. That equates to 19 million gas-powered cars on the road in a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas emissions calculator.

“Buildings are a huge source of emissions,” said Doug Smith, director of sustainability for the City of Vancouver.

The city, one of the most progressive in North America when it comes to climate action, wants to show the way forward by completely moving buildings away from energy sources that depend on burning fuel. fossil. Without a doubt, there are costs, but Vancouver is also making the point that there are also huge economic benefits.

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Micah Lang, a green building planner for the City of Vancouver, said: “There is a huge economic opportunity here, pointing to an estimated $8 billion in revenue in retrofitting construction stock. available in the next two decades.

“So this is an opportunity, not only for building owners or homeowners to improve the comfort of their homes, but for traders, contractors, technical consultants… a supply chain (that) benefits from this work. ahead of us.”

The building has no net

Thirteen years ago, American businessman and businessman Albert Rooks saw economic prospects in the face of a crisis. In 2009, the US housing market had just collapsed, but instead of running for the exit, Rooks saw the possibility of investing in technology to make buildings more sustainable.

“A crash is a great time to start, retool and forge new directions,” he told Global News from his manufacturing facility in Olympia, the capital of Washington state.

Not long after the accident, he founded his company, Small Planet Supply. Today, it is a major supplier of heat pump boilers for use in residential and commercial buildings 300 kilometers off the highway in Vancouver.

These heat pump-powered electric boilers will be manufactured by Small Planet Supply in Richmond, BC to take advantage of the much-anticipated sustainable construction boom in Canada.

Albert Rooks / Small Planet Supply

These machines – which do not rely on burning fossil fuels to heat water – will soon be manufactured in Richmond, just south of Vancouver. Each unit can produce hot water for up to 50 units in an apartment building.

Rooks said he’s investing in BC because the province is “absolutely” the leader in North America when it comes to zero-carbon buildings. And this, he says, “is growing by leaps and bounds every day.”

Nature-based solutions

Not all solutions involve technology or expensive retrofits.

Susan MacDougall, principal at Focal Engineering, a Victoria-based company that works to improve energy use, says something as basic as the placement of windows in an apartment can have a huge impact. to climate adaptation.

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“We really try to think about how we can take in from nature,” says MacDougall, of the work her company does. This could include something as simple as designing for airflow, “for you to orient the windows so people can have natural ventilation to cool their space when they need it.”

Not all energy-efficient solutions involve expensive technology or upgrades. Simply designing a room for better air circulation can make a huge difference in cooling capacity in the summer.

Her company works with a native-based planning company called M’akola Development Services. The two companies were part of the team that designed and built a 23-unit, three-story apartment building for Haisla Country in the community of Kitimat, North BC.

The building uses an L-shaped design to maximize natural ventilation and is specially designed to increase the connection between each apartment and the outside, the center with the way people perceive and exist. geography.


Click to play video: 'Refreshing our connection with nature'







Renewing our relationship with nature


Renewing our connection with nature – August 30, 2022

“That allows more people to be able to cool their spaces with open windows and doors and then also enjoy the benefits of connecting with their natural environment,” says MacDougall.

That, along with natural shading, are all cost-effective mechanisms not always employed in building design – but are now being considered much more actively.

Current trend

George Benson, economic transformation manager for the Vancouver Economic Commission, a nonprofit that supports the city’s development, said that despite all these moves to improve buildings, there are a “status quo bias” could impede the development of the city.

“If you make money and you have 50 orders by the end of the year, it’s hard to motivate yourself to say ‘well, why would I change? I am making money, I have a successful business.”

Deborah Harford, an adaptation expert at Simon Fraser University, says that if you leave everything in the market, the change won’t happen fast enough because many people “don’t want to spend the extra money”.

This is where the right combination of regulations and incentives, like subsidies and rebates, comes in. However, she said, those regulations must be clear and standardized.

Harford points to a system right now, where one municipality adheres to one set of rules, while another “literally” follows another.

To change that, BC has launched what is known as a ‘step code’ to make buildings more energy efficient step-by-step right across the province.

Then there are municipalities like Vancouver that are actively trying to stay ahead of the curve – not waiting around to set the standard.

By acting now, Smith asserts, Vancouver is actually “saving a lot of pain and a lot of cost” for its residents down the road.

“Climate (change) is clearly getting worse every year, and at some point governments will have to be really drastic.”

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