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Report from the Toronto Green Building Festival 2006

By: Sonja Persram - Monday, December 11, 2006
Source: Sustainable Alternatives Consulting, Inc.

The 2nd annual Green Building Festival in Toronto opened with an insightful introduction by Festival Chair Ajon Moriyama, son of icon Raymond Moriyama, and Partner, Moriyama and Teshima Architects.

The speech was an evocative portrayal of the motivating power of nature to stir action, and a tribute to Ontario’s natural capital.  Centred around the event’s theme: Transformation via Integration, as well as the Festival aspect of the conference, Moriyama described the transformative quality of his passion for the environment in relation to five meaningful turning points that guided his life.  For those in the business of market transformation to green buildings, hearing his journey facilitated both an inward tracing of our own paths, as well as an opportunity to mark how we can transfer this knowledge to influence those in our own milieux.

The first turning point was Moriyama’s exposure to the wonders of nature as a ten-year-old at summer camp in northern Ontario.  He noted, "Almost as quickly as I embraced the environment, I realized it was damaged" – he was told not to risk drinking the pristine-appearing water.  Moriyama then vowed to do whatever he could to protect the environment.

Second was his exposure to the works of Tom Thomson,
 Group of Seven artist who portrayed Canada’s north.  Moriyama realized Thomson's work was a powerful communication tool in evoking a fundamental, emotional connection to the environment, and it inspired him to use architecture as his personal canvas.  Third was Moriyama’s experience at the age of seventeen – again in northern Ontario, as a Junior Forest Ranger.  (Others in the audience enjoyed this ranger role directly as well as vicariously via the 1963-65 series, The Forest Rangers, Canada’s first full-colour tv show, aired worldwide.)

The fourth turning point was his appointment as Managing Partner of his company.  Moriyama ascribes his company’s success as being due to differentiation arising from 'core values of design excellence, seeking inspiration in nature, and testing ideas via integrating science and technology, such as energy simulation modeling.  In fact, they will have an in-house scientist for these purposes soon.  Moriyama then described two projects – the Canadian War Museum
, which has won several international awards, and a current bioremediation project near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, of the Wadi Hanifah.

The Canadian War Museum was designed to embody the modesty of Canadian heroism, with the natural environment’s devastation as a result of war, taken from historical images.  The 15 percent flyash concrete edifice has a curving, arched green roof (at 10,672 m2 the largest single green roof in North America); offsets cooling demands via river water; and has an opening in Memorial Hall in which the sun shines on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 11 am on November 11, Remembrance Day.

The Wadi Hanifah is a 120-km long gully with a watershed of over 4,500 sq km, that runs through Riyadh.

Although the Wadi engendered the city’s growth amid the desert, it now is mostly dry in that vicinity as a result of mining and quarry activity, as well as its role as garbage receptacle. Moriyama and Teshina looked to nature for inspiration, designing a natural system at one tenth the cost of a mechanical one.

Ecological water system bioremediation was optimized via science and computer modeling; project restoration has already regenerated rushes, and will allow 1 tonne of Tilapia to be harvested per day. Property values adjacent to the Wadi have improved by more than fivefold.  The project is expected to be completed mid-2008.

Moriyama’s fifth turning point was the birth of his children.  He became driven to give them a legacy of an environment better than the one he experienced, and envisions the day when a ten-year-old Saudi child can drink from the Wadi Hanifah.

Cheryl Gladu
Eco Cité Developments Partner Cheryl Gladu described her company’s method of addressing the often 'great divide' that exists when capital increments are required in order to purchase green technologies that benefit the user via lowered monthly bills.

Eco Cité’s system is to treat incremental costs for green condo energy features as an investment instrument - for themselves as developers, or other financiers. The financier buys rights to the renewable energy system (e.g. geothermal), and charges a monthly rate to the user that is comparatively less than conventional energy costs. Gladu notes this means "energy-producing buildings (are) more comparable on a price point basis to other homes on the market. Doing so makes innovative housing more affordable and it creates a steady-stream long-term income, an attractive 'cash cow' benefit to investors in green energy systems financing."

Peter Halsall, President of Halsall Associates Limited articulated a variety of data from the literature that are thought-provoking guides for industry stakeholders’ strategic direction. S ome may be familiar; others not:

  • In contrast to expectations of telecommuters’ reduced emissions, telecommuting leads to people using their cars for more, shorter trips – and more than 50 percent of a car’s emissions are in the first few minutes of driving1

  • The biggest cause of CO2 emissions is buildings – yet, currently it is automakers who are being sued.

  • There are a variety of carbon offset options, and trees often are utilized in this manner.  However, it is useful to consider the offset period, for instance trees offset in 80 years.2

  • Financial benefits of green design are between $50 and $70 per square foot for a LEED project; this represents over 10 times the green cost increment.3

  • In 1983, a Netherlands ING green building study demonstrated that the green systems paid for themselves in three months due to absenteeism decreases.4

  • Halsall recommends that design be planned not just for today, but also for events twenty years or even fifty years from now. He noted that Sweden plans for zero oil by 2020. 5 Key drivers in Halsall Associates’ work with Toronto’s Regent Park social housing revitalization project, are reduced peak demand and increased durability; the project includes a district energy feature.

  • According to the Richard Gilbert / Julie McGuire report, Hamilton The Electric City,6 it takes gas prices on the order of 4x the current rate before changes occur in societal habits. In their analysis they portray strategies that might be employed under different probabilities of prices reaching these levels by 2031:

      • If <25 percent, Ignore the risk

      • If 25 - 50 percent,  Create a Plan B

      • If >50 percent,  Plan for the occurrence

The researchers’ report is based on the scenario that the chances are much greater than 50 percent that gas prices will be on the order of four times the current rate by 2031.

Halsall Associates conducted an international study on comparative cities’ green development initiatives as Phase I of the City of Toronto’s Green Development Standard process, and is participating on the winning West8 team for the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation’s sustainable Central Waterfront initiative.

Dr Mohini Sain, Ph.D, P.Eng, is Professor and Director of the Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing at the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto.  His presentation provided insights as to North American, European and Japanese market differences.  Some facts:

  • Bio-based materials are in use commercially in Europe, Japan, and North America.  Commercialization requires overcoming the perceived risk factors, yet they are a preferable option to others which consume far more energy in their manufacture.
  • Globally plastics consumption is more than 200 million tons1 of which 26 percent of the market is in construction.
  • Biomass industries are shifting in focus from consumption, to converting bioresources to more renewable carbon-stored products
  • Building codes don’t generally register this biomass potential; while it’s available in the market.  Sain believes there is a lack of communication and understanding of these new materials from building inspectors and architects.

Additionally, Canada, in particular, still lags e.g. the US, Europe and Japan in addressing issues related to some common building components:

  • Market moves have been initiated in Canada via the decking industry, which had to move out of treated products.

  • Fibreglass, polystyrene and other synthetic foam sectors are actively looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives in Japan and Europe via local and regional initiatives such as a sustainable hotel in Sweden.  However this is not likely to happen in Canada for some time without participation from industry, policy makers and consumers.

  • Styrene is one of the most expensive monomers from the petroleum industry.

  • Sain noted green materials’ penetration in products in the following industries, representing the percent share of total bio-based materials usage

      • Building products 67 percent

      • Industrial / Consumer sectors: 10 percent

      • Auto industry: 9 percent

      • Construction: 14 percent

  • Bioresins are entering the wood composite market, replacing formaldehyde resins (both urea-formaldehyde and phenol-formaldehyde) in European markets.  However this is not yet in the North American building codes.

  • Hemp and other industrial bio-fibres have potential to transform the concrete industry, as materials such as hemp and flax cores are suitable concrete components.  Some benefits Sain articulated include:2

      • Hemp biofibre has improved insulating properties

      • Hemp is a lightweight additive to concrete

      • High durability

      • Meets building code applications for acoustic and hydrothermal qualities

      • Insulation materials from hemp, flax and jute are coming into European vogue, for a potential replacing of glasswool or other synthetic insulation. This is being driven by the Green Building sector.

    • The major hurdle to market uptake is supply chain development, legislation, and code approvals.

    • Similarly, aluminum and PVC are huge industries in North America, in contrast to declining markets in Europe.

    • Composites hold market potential, with the capacity for 60-70 percent waste material from agricultural industries, including wheat straw, to be included in building materials.

    • Biomaterials’ slower growth in North America is due in part to lack of awareness of bioplastics’ and biocomposites’ potential, as well as the lack of set targets compared to Europe e.g. Directive (04/62/EC) which has targets for 2006.[2]

Interactive European Network for Industrial Crops and their Applications,
Natural Composites Council, Canadian Plastics Industry Association,
2Note also this research from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario:

Manitoba Hydro Head Office
The climate of downtown Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada where the temperature differential is 100 degrees Celsius, provided a challenge ably met by the Toronto-based design team Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB), for client Manitoba Hydro’s new headquarters. Transsolar GmbH, a German firm with experience in measuring site energy consumption and a software capacity to address this climate, consulted on the building’s solar design.  Smith Carter Architects and Engineers are the local firm for the initiative.

With temperatures ranging from minus 50 degrees Celsius including wind chill, to 30 degrees Celsius in summer, the 22-storey, 690,000 sf building uses building orientation to facilitate passive solar design and natural ventilation from strong southerly winds.  100 percent fresh air is delivered, 24/365.  Components include: 3- and 6-storey atria, a solar chimney at the building’s northern exposure, and structural and glazing components.  These and other systems reduce substantially the requirement for mechanical HVAC and artificial lighting for a more than 60 percent decrease targeted in energy consumption.  The project is targeting LEED-Gold.

Projected annual operations cost savings total $15 million: $7 million in saved lease costs from co-locating 12 office spaces, in addition to savings due to energy efficiencies, enhanced productivity, uniting employees, and other design components.

The introduction of 2,000 employees into a revitalized downtown block is anticipated to help facilitate urban regeneration.  Space will be for public, retail, commercial, as well as Manitoba Hydro office use.

According to the Manitoba Hydro website: "The new building, which was part of Manitoba Hydro’s agreement to purchase Winnipeg Hydro, will cost $188 million to construct.  The development of the project will total $258 million, which also includes such costs as modernizing Hydro’s information technology and security systems, pedestrian bridge linkage, insurance, design work, and capital interest." 1

Construction has been fast-tracked and completion is anticipated in 2008.


NRCAN Energy Codes & Labelling
Michel Lamanque, Account Manager in the New Buildings Program at Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, outlined some of the complexities of codes and their development in Canada.

National Building Code of Canada
The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCFBC) is responsible for building code development in Canada – as well as plumbing and fire codes. Another organization, the Provincial/Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes (PTPACC) advises and has input to the CCFBC’s code creation process, however PTPACC decisions must be unanimous. Given differential concerns among provinces and territories around health, safety, accessibility and security (not energy), that is why the national building code is at a minimum level of requirement.

Energy Codes
By contrast, the MNECB and the MNECH (Model National Energy Codes for Buildings and Houses), are voluntary standards which exceed the national building code’s requirements.

Code cycle
While ASHRAE’s code is updated every 2-3 years; the cycle for Canada’s National Building Code is 5 years – long by comparison. The commission has proposed to revise the national building code cycle to 3 years, and so the last 5-year National Building Code cycle will be in 2010, with the following code launched in 2013.

Other news:

  • A new Ontario building code will be in effect in January 2007, which will allow a home to be built that is more than 21% more efficient than one built under the NBC, and commercial/industrial sectors would be 16-18% more energy efficient.

    • Renewables integrated into code: Ontario is the only province that has energy as an objective in its building code. When the code was revised, raising the bar on the energy side using ASHRAE 90.1-2004, a renewables option was included.

    • Ontario is raising the bar in increments to accommodate those that need to catch up. It was indicated during the code revision that Ontario has a target to raise the bar even higher for 2009 – but also in 2012 Ontario would like buildings to be 25% better than the MNECB. On the housing side, Ontario is aiming for Energuide for Houses 80 for 2012.

  • A Building Energy Codes Collaborative is being developed between Energy Code and Building Code proponents.

  • Manitoba is adopting the current MNECB for January 2007. They are aiming in 2009 to have their energy code for buildings to be equivalent of 25 percent better than the present MNECB (three years before Ontario). On the housing side, it’s still unclear what Manitoba will do as the provisions are for ICI.

  • Municipalities can use code with a 'higher' bar than is in use nationally or provincially

  • Forty-three US states have their own MECs, based on ASHRAE. Ontario divided a tweak of ASHRAE standard into two zones: north of Bruce Peninsula and south.

NRCAN Building Labelling
Ian Meredith is Senior Analyst in the Buildings Division at Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (NRCan OEE).

This news article is compiled from Meredith’s presentation and subsequent communication.

In the interests of utilizing the transformative capacities of building labelling in building markets, Meredith states:

The OEE is … interested in exploring the possibility of introducing an energy label that could be used on commercial, institutional, residential and government buildings. Three inter-related concepts seem to be converging in a manner which supports this idea of a building energy label. These are:

1) (Rising) financial and environmental costs of high energy consumption are leading building owners, managers, tenants and other stakeholders to place an increasingly high priority on energy efficienc

2) The building sector is also currently embracing the use of environmental rating systems to assess overall building performanc

3) Energy labelling on products in several other market sectors has emerged as a policy tool that has tremendous market transformation potential."

Meredith identified examples from Canada and Europe:

  • Alberta has a “Built Green” voluntary energy labelling program based on NRCan’s Energuide for New Houses. Membership is open to all Home Builders Associations’ members.

  • The European Parliament’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and 2002/91/EC apply to public buildings’ NC and EB, and will extend to the private sector by 2009. Performance certificate labels are earned and must be publicly displayed and available when the building is completed, sold or rented. The systems address the credibility between design and performance. The Asset Rating is dependent on design and whether the building is NC or EB.

  • The Display campaign by Energy City is an engagement and awareness tool that addresses energy and environmental performance of the municipal building sector in 21 countries. A poster label identifies self-calculated performance on energy, CO2 and water consumption, without verification.

Effective Building Energy Labelling
Among energy label characteristics recommended by a recent multiple-stakeholder group of building and energy experts (obtained via consensus), are that it be:

  • Simple

  • Clear

  • Time-sensitive (i.e. it’s regularly repeated)

  • Inexpensive

Other questions posed by this group in relation to energy labelling:

  • Should it be limited to energy conservation or should it be related to consequences such as GHGs? Water?

  • How precise should reported energy data be, for credibility?

  • How long should the development process be? Long-term, or asap?

  • What should the basic objective of building energy labelling be:

    • A tool for awareness

    • Benchmarking for portfolio improvements

    • Leadership

    • A combination of the above

  • What selection of building types should be labelled: e.g. hospital? Commercial office tower?

  • Should this be mandatory vs voluntary participation?

  • How should labelling take place: via self-declaration? vs 3rd party verification with complicated audit?

The relevance of this energy labelling system to building and municipal stakeholders may be noted by the following questions, derived after the stakeholder-meeting:

  • Should the system tie into e.g. building permits, approvals, tax relief and other financial incentives?

  • Should there be recognition within the label of decreased strain on local infrastructure?

  • Goal of Net Zero?

Building Energy Labeling Project
NRCAN is organizing a Building Energy Labeling Forum in Toronto on December 1. All interested participants are welcome and the forum is free, however formal registration is required, by contacting: D. R. Dunlop & Associates, (613) 235-8879 or

Several questions arise for this writer, based on Meredith’s presentation:
Should 'grey energy' or the embodied energy of materials including energy impacts be a part of a new building energy label?1 2 Might this affect purchasing policies? 3

Should building labeling programs also identify health, environmental, financial, and social impacts?

In the interests of a) avoiding costs and impacts of unnecessary components and b) reducing energy requirements, should a higher ‘status’ label be accorded to passive solar, natural ventilation NC design that reduces the need for technology to support HVAC?4 5



All in all, the second annual Green Building Festival in Toronto was a resounding success. Plan to attend next year. You won’t want to miss it.

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