Fighting climate change will be a top priority for the real estate industry in 2020 Image

Fighting climate change will be a top priority for the real estate industry in 2020

By Sam Reiss on Dec 04, 2019

As I look forward to 2020, I can’t help but feel like energy efficiency and fighting climate change will be top priorities in the new year. 

The Canada Green Building Council recently released the results of its Disclosure Challenge, which aimed to promote the importance of energy and data transparency, specifically in commercial real estate. 

The volunteer participants were big industry leaders, including QuadReal, Triovest Realty Advisors, Concert Properties, and Minto Group. The reason this story caught my eye was because a few of these players dabble in residential development, too. 

"Benchmarking is the first step in improving building performance. The Disclosure Challenge proves that industry collaboration can stimulate the types of retrofits required to promote significant emissions reductions,” said George Van Noten, Senior Vice President, Property Operations, Minto Properties Inc. “Our participation helped highlight changes we could make at the building level to improve performance and indicates to us the value of sharing our information, experiences and lessons learned with the industry as a whole."

According to the United Nations, buildings account for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Toronto, buildings account for half of the GHG emissions! Clearly, Toronto needs to do more to cut back on emissions, which is why I’m in support of the City’s goal to have all new homes built to net-zero standards by 2030, though I’m not sure how achievable this is and I’m concerned about potential increased costs affecting affordability. 

For the Disclosure Challenge, the participants reported on energy use, GHG emissions, and water use in more than 700 commercial buildings. The data made it easier for new targets to be set. Without access to data like this, it’s difficult for building owners and managers to set their own energy efficiency targets, let alone for different levels of government. 

There are programs in the U.S., Australia, and Europe that track energy data in order to fight climate change and decrease their carbon footprints. In Ontario, there actually are energy benchmark regulations for buildings, but this isn’t common across the country. 

"Canada clearly needs to catch up quickly when it comes to benchmarking, reporting, and disclosing data. Access to building performance data has enabled owners in other jurisdictions to make more informed choices about investing in retrofits," said Thomas Mueller, CEO and President of CaGBC. "Canadian markets require data transparency to drive investment in efficiency programs and create demand for higher performing buildings."

Going into 2020, I truly believe/hope that the provincial and federal governments will prioritize climate change initiatives, and I believe the new home industry should play a big role. I’m optimistic seeing these big industry leaders participating in the CaGBC study, and strongly encourage other members of the new home industry to follow suit. 

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