Vancouver is taking another step in building a carbon-free city.
Council has adopted a plan that will change construction standards in the city.
This is aimed at producing new buildings with zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The move is in line with the Renewable City Strategy approved by council in November last year, which calls for a 100 percent shift to renewable energy use before 2050.
Council at that time directed staff to work on an approach to achieve zero-emission buildings by 2030.
On Wednesday (July 14), council endorsed the Zero Emissions Building Plan prepared by staff.
As laid out in a report to council by Sean Pander, manager of green building program, the plan focuses on two things.
One is to reduce heating energy demand. Two, replace natural gas for space heating and hot water with renewable energy sources like electricity.
“If all buildings are to use only renewable energy by 2050, the sooner new buildings achieve near zero emissions, the fewer buildings there will be that require costly and challenging deep energy retrofits to achieve the target,” Pander wrote in his report.
The plan has four components, and the first of these is the setting of greenhouse gas and thermal energy limits for each building type.
For detached houses, new building bylaws will be put in place around 2020 to achieve greater energy efficiency.
Starting in 2016, new low-rise multi-unit residential buildings of four to six storeys will conform to standards that will reduce their emissions by nearly 50 percent compared to outcomes set by current regulations.
Also beginning this year, new high-rises will have to achieve 64 percent less emissions compared to current outcomes through new building bylaws.
Office buildings and other building types will be required to have better envelopes and shift to renewable energy sources for their heating.
Another component of the plan is to have all new city-owned and –managed buildings conform to the highest energy efficiency standards.
A third element in the plan is the creation of a three-year, $1.6-million program to help developers build energy-efficient detached and row houses.
The fourth component is the establishment of a Centre of Zero Emission Building Excellence, a non-profit that will help facilitate the development of zero-emission building expertise.
The Zero Emissions Building Plan was formulated by city staff in cooperation with several partners like the Pembina Institute, a think tank on energy and climate change issues.
Karen Tam Wu, director of the buildings and urban solutions program with Pembina, noted in a letter to the city that the reduction of emissions and energy in homes and buildings will have “co-benefits”.
“These include improvements to the quality of the homes and buildings in which Vancouver residents live and work, the creation of green jobs and increased innovation in the supply chain,” Tam Wu wrote.
According to her, the plan is a “pragmatic approach to climate action”.
“Pursuing solely carbon neutrality will not result in the magnitude of reductions in the time frame we have to meet our national and international climate targets,” Tam Wu stated in her letter to the city. “Simply put, we need to look for all opportunities to reduce consumption of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The Zero Emissions Building Plan will become a model for many other jurisdictions in Canada and North America.”