The Canada Green Buildings Strategy

Webinar on October 14, 2022

Join our rescheduled Friday DiscoverEE session with Natural Resources Canada! Anne White will share the latest version of the Canada Green Buildings Strategy and answer all your questions related to the policy.


  • Anne White, Director, Canada Green Buildings Strategy


  • Allison Mostowich, Director of Engagement, Efficiency Canada


Anna White

 Thanks so much. Hi everyone. Thanks for the invitation. So overall for those of you who are not familiar with the Canada Green Building strategy, I thought it might be helpful to just take you through the process.

What are we actually doing? So we started the process in the spring of this year and developed a discussion paper which you may have seen, and it was really a helpful overview to prompt discussions with a number of different stakeholders. It provides many different challenges that we see in greeting the building sector and some potential action items that we might take.

And we shared that document with our cabinet, colleagues and provincial and territorial counterparts in late June. In July, we officially launched an engagement period for the Canada Green Building Strategy, and since then we’ve taken that discussion paper and shared it with about 150 different industry stakeholders.

And then we posted on our website, so there’s a Canada Green Building Strategy website. It includes a public engagement process. It has a number of different questions that both Canadians can respond to, and there’s also an industry stream. And as part of that industry stream, you can then download the paper.

And since then we’ve just continued really engaging with industry through a number of different round tables with provincial and territorial counterparts through, through bilaterals and really with anyone who sends a note and wishes to speak with us and wants to be involved in the development of the building strategy.

So if you are interested in getting more involved please do let us know. We’re in the midst now of our provincial and territorial bilaterals. We’ll have three rounds and discussions with provinces and territories.

Our first was in September. We’ve just completed our second in October, and we’ll seek to wrap up those discussions in November. Through that period of time, industry engagement continues and we’ve launched a deep dive on the evidence base, and data and analysis and modeling, on how we would reach a net zero milestone, if I could call it that, by 2050 in the building sector and the number of different decarbonization pathways that might be relevant to Canada and different regions across Canada.

We’re seeking to draft the strategy in the winter. We’ve got a milestone there of December for first draft and then we’ll be seeking cabinet approval from internal government work through the winter with the aim to share and release the strategy in the spring of 2023. So pretty quick timeline overall for this first Canada Green building strategy, and I say first Canada Green building strategy cause it’s very important that it is evergreen.

Getting to net zero will mean an opportunity for continued dialogue, will necessitate continued dialogue and understanding of how technologies are changing. And that’s an important part of the framing for the first Canada Green building strategy. And this next slide is really an overview of that discussion paper.

What we do in the discussion paper is take you through a profile of the sector in terms of emissions. The breakdown of those emissions from residential, commercial, public, what the timelines look like, where we need to go, different milestones, and an overview of some of the key stats and what we’re seeing.

So overall emissions from the building sector trending upward. And we’re falling short of our projected emissions reductions from the Pan-Canadian framework. And that’s partly due to a building stop growing. But there’s also some variations in our modeling due to weather. And due to climate change. We know that 78% of total building sector emissions, and that includes electricity, come from space and water heating and low envelope efficiency levels, so air leakage. And we are seeing increasing pressure on homes and buildings from extreme weather and climate change making building stock resilience a concern, clearly an important factor for our Atlantic colleagues and partners right now. We think we’ll need to see a dramatic increase in the retrofit rate, which sits around about 1% at the moment, to 3 to 5%, and an increase in high performance new construction to reduce GHG emissions from Canada’s building stock and to enable that net zero milestone for the building sector.

The discussion paper is framed around three objectives. So building net- zero from the start, rapid scaling retrofit rate, and transforming space and water heating. And we break out the paper in a number of strategic themes. And then for each of those strategic themes, we have proposed areas requiring change.

For example, we would see a number of potential areas where governments could undertake public sector building retrofits, potentially ensure funding programs, support, green building objectives, et cetera. And so through all those different strategic themes, we have several different action areas that we’re now hearing from partners across Canada on what their thoughts are and how they might prioritize and sequence these actions to enable net zero in the buildings sector. Importantly, this is a national strategy. In order for us to achieve net zero, we absolutely need to be looking at a national pathway, not a federal strategy or pathway, and it needs to reflect asymmetries across Canada. What we’ve done to enable the conversation really about those asymmetries is take our discussion paper and map it on a transition pathway.

This uses an S-curve approach, which you may be familiar with. It’s a way that a number of different industry transitions have been mapped over time including from horses to cars and other kinds of technological transitions. It works well for enabling conversation really, and looking at those discussion paper actions over time, with both our provincial territorial colleagues and also with industry partners, because what we’re finding is everyone’s in a different part of that s curve. And so when we’re speaking with folks for example, in the north where we have very cold climates, that they see themselves maybe on the emergent side of this s curve at the very beginning of their pathway towards a net zero sector.

And in some cases, they don’t see themselves reflected on that s curve at all. And so when we talk about policy levers then, and opportunities to help nudge people forward or get them on that s-curve, we’re very much in the research development and demonstration and in talking about incentives and what might be most helpful for those industry partners or provinces and territories. In other parts of the country where we see organizations and jurisdictions a little bit further along, then we are in a place where we’re talking a bit more around early deployment levers, like enabling codes and standards, and in some cases about regulation.

So overall, this is how we’ve been talking about and exploring what possible policy levers and actions the federal government could put forward to enable that net zero sector in the beginnings of that framework towards getting to net zero in the building sector. There’s three questions at the bottom here, which are discussion questions that we’ve used both in the discussion paper itself and in round tables and other forums to talk about how different industry groups and jurisdictions see themselves reflected on this pathway. And so I’d be curious if any of you are willing to share where you see yourselves reflected and what policy levers you think would be most impactful to support you and with respect to your next steps on this pathway.

The next slide is data. And so this is illustrative and it has no numbers, which is not where we wanna go with data generally. But I wanted to bring it up here to give you an overview of how widely we are looking at getting to net zero and to really highlight that we’re aware that getting to net zero in the building sector is not just about reducing demand, but also increasing low carbon energy supply.

And what these decarbonization pathways look like across the country vary, not just by province and territory, but importantly by region and what the climate looks like. And so this is an example of some of the work that we’re doing on the backend. Very mindful of where we have mature technologies versus immature or nascent technologies.

And in no way am I trying to show as part of this chart that. All of these different columns are equal. But more to recognize that there are a number of different pathways and those asymmetries across the country really do matter in terms of the framework that we’re looking at on how we get to net zero.

We’re doing lots of research to help inform our thinking and what the various approaches may be, including really understanding decarbonization of home and building heating and looking at decarbonization pathways across the country more broadly as I mentioned before. So that includes understanding, economic impacts.

We need to be looking at the cost and trade offs of various technologies and pathways across the country. So we’re doing a bit of top down macro analysis as well as bottom up analysis of individual measures and programs across government seeking to work with our provincial and territorial colleagues as well to understand the impacts of various programs in those regions and jurisdictions so that we can have a real solid as best we can. Of course, the data is patchy, as you will know of what the pathways look like and where we don’t have information and we need to work to fill those gaps over time.

Overall in terms of the submissions that we’ve been receiving from that discussion paper and our conversations across the country we’re hearing some similar patterns. So I thought I would just share a bit of the broad strokes, if you will, the patterns of comments that we’re hearing about the building strategy and what’s needed.

So first that it’s more than just building. Recognizing that greening the building sector is going to require an understanding that it is part of a whole of economy transformation. Almost all submissions and all discussions that we’ve had put a great focus on prioritizing low income supports.

Understanding how to equitably decarbonize the building sector is very important. We need to have granular blueprints. Everyone is asking us for granular blueprints on what the energy pathways might be, what the decarbonization paths look like across Canada.

Part of that is a capacity building challenge where not all jurisdictions or industry partners are able to invest in that kind of analysis and they want to plug in. Part of it is about information sharing and best practice. Getting to a place where there’s transparency in how we wanna move forward.

And we can talk about the same thing, looking at the same goal – clear need for coordination. Industry is asking us to provide certainty but also to coordinate our actions across governmental initiatives. Federal, provincial, territorial to city and alignment, of course, is imperative of those programs, funding regulatory initiatives across jurisdictions.

We need to ensure that what we’re doing is targeting each individual jurisdiction area in a way that makes sense to where they are now and can help them move forward. Lots of discussion around the need for government leadership. We should be leading by example with model practices, finding a way to drive cost down, demonstrating value, and a big focus on research and development and scaling.

So there are a lot of unanswered questions still in how we might green the building sector, including how do we industrialize the rage or the approach to retrofits. Who’s gonna do that work? What works well? We need to be investing in research on low carbon technologies et cetera.

And then we need to be able to recognize what mature looks like, what works, and scale it effectively. And then that of course brings us into discussion about supply chain but also skills, which is number eight on this list.  Regularly across almost all submissions and discussions, skills is a key issue that comes up.

The need for training, upskilling, the need to potentially look at skilled immigrants to come and support this work. The skill set of the green building sector looks a little bit different than the skill set of the current building sector, and so we’re aware with that and leading conversations with provinces and territories to better understand how we can help accelerate the development of those skills. Nine on this list is about governance. It is critical in two ways. It’s critical in terms of enabling discussion from provinces, territories, governments, also externally, industry in some cases utilities. Other partners are wanting and needing a clear platform for collaboration, what exactly that looks like is still TBD and I think probably needs to be worked out together over time.

We are hearing a lot of requests and needs for capacity development and support, and that’s really a lot about information sharing. What is working in different jurisdictions, how do we learn about how to install heat pumps. Who is most effective at doing that? How do we scale that learning? And some of it is a little bit more into that blueprint side of it, wanting to share data and information and pathways and connect in with others across the country to maybe model what’s possible, to talk a little bit more in detail about implications for the grid. Regardless though, those platforms for ongoing collaboration are key. And then lastly, the need to really educate the public, Canadians, about what greening buildings means for them, and sharing understanding in common terms so that when Canadians are thinking about making improvements in their homes, that they’re considering a green option in their decisions.

Again, in broad strokes, we’re looking to do three things. One, we’re gonna continue talking with all of you and with our provincial and territorial counterparts to drive ambition and reach consensus on timeframes for key milestones to get to net zero.

Those discussions are ongoing and what I’ve put underneath this one is recognizing that for each of those milestones that we wish to reach there are going to be. Policy levers that can help reach those milestones together. So that’s really the bulk of those conversations, being aware of how that ambition comes together with those policy levers.

Secondly, we want to report back to key stakeholders on what we’ve heard. So we’re working through how to do that. We’ve got lots of submissions and so how do we synthesize that and put that back out for validation. And third, really thinking through what would a meaningful governance and collaboration platform look like to enable those conversations.

If we’re at the very beginnings of a framework, or excuse the pun, what we’ve been talking about internally as laying the foundation for a net zero building sector, and that’s what we’re seeking to do for the first iteration of this strategy, how do we ensure that it is evergreen and that there’s a platform for ongoing and continued discussion and information sharing dissemination of best practices over time.

Allison Mostowich

Thank you so much Anne, it was really helpful to understand what feedback you’re seeing so far, and it sounds like the conversation will be ongoing as you continued on this path.

So when you’re collecting the feedback and you’re thinking about sharing, is it only gonna be available to the people that you’ve collected feedback from? Or what does that process look like? Will you share it publicly? And how it was integrated into the strategy?

Anna White

Yeah, I’m not sure yet. We’re still working that out. So I really am giving you the live,” this is what our intentions are, this is what we want to do.” There’s one option that we post it on our website. I find that it’s harder to really engage in meaningful dialogue by putting something on a website.

Cause then you start to either have text based responses or you’re restricting answers with one of these dropdown menus. So we may need to do, perhaps we do that in a combination of dialogue through a round table, not quite sure yet, but we’ll certainly want to validate, ensure that we’ve got like a good representation across Canada as ministry stakeholders and report back what we’re hearing to make sure that we’ve heard it.

Allison Mostowich

So you mentioned that this is I guess a greenfield or it is a base strategy. Is there any sense of how you’d like to continue that conversation?

I know I’ve heard about some different round tables that Minister Wilkinson has set up with industry. So have you thought about what that could look like to encourage the dialogue and continue the dialogue on this?

Anna White

We have thought about it but we’re not gonna dictate it. We are talking through it with partners on what would make most sense.

And industry wants it as well. So there’s two parts of this collaborative sort of work or platform that’s required. There’s an external one where I think people kinda wanna talk to each other and have that informed by evidence or capacity building supports. Then there’s like a within government one as well.

I think we still need to come up with a solution that works for everyone, whether it be like a table or plugging into existing tables where it makes sense to do so.

Allison Mostowich

Okay, so this one’s from Jesse Rowe. So he’s talking about what exists already in, I call it the energy efficiency ecosystem. So we have about a billion dollars invested into energy efficiency programs through utility systems across the country. And even beyond utility systems.

Just a note that he didn’t necessarily see that mention in the discussion paper. So can you maybe comment on how the strategy is recognizing investments that have already been made and how they could be leveraged or ramped up to unlock greater impacts?

Anna White

So the strategy is not meaning to be, nor I think should be a number of announcements of new measures that are gonna get us to net zero, it needs to be much bigger than that in terms of what is the pathway, how do we collaborate, how do we think about technologies, What is mature now? And so in some cases there are investments both recent past or past generally, work that’s been done, codes, for example that continue. And then there’s potentially new investments that get announced as part of it.

But that’s just where we are now in 2022, 2023, and recognizing what we’ve done up to this point. It needs to allow a big space for now to 2050. And what does that look like? So the frame is much broader than what existing initiatives could be. The idea here is to encompass where we’ve been, how we’ve gotten to where we are and what we need to do moving forward. As best we understand it now with opportunities and milestones around strategic decision points that’ll need to be made in future.

Allison Mostowich

So can you talk a little bit more about how hydrogen is a part of the decarbonization pathway for buildings?

Anna White

I don’t know that it is. We’re not picking horses, if you will, right now and guessing with any sort of certainty on what 2050 looks like.

So when we look at different pathways there’s maturity of technology that goes into our various models. There’s a role for different technologies under different circumstances. It really depends on what your assumptions look like, and they all vary in different parts of the country. So we’re not eliminating, at this point, I think a lot of what may change, a lot of different technologies. And we’re aware that in some parts of the country there might be a different pathway than in others. When we look at the North certainly on their end, we are seeing a lot of investment and research and development in solar.

And that may become an important part of the pathway there that is not at all in a different part. And it might not be the most cost effective pathway for different jurisdictions in Canada. So at this point, it’s really about being clear of what’s possible, allowing space for technology to change and mature or to exit.

We’re not seeking to choose a path and say this is the definitive, but making space for obviously where we invest in more mature technologies and prioritizing those, but leaving space for new technologies to come into play or what might be more nascent technologies to evolve and mature or to exit all together.

Allison Mostowich

Brendan Haley, who is our director of policy is curious to know about the latest thinking on integrating low income and equity into the strategy.

Anna White

Yeah it’s key. The challenge there I think for us will likely be solved through these kind of collaboration platforms ultimately. So I’ll give you an example of what I mean by that. Looking at a national building strategy and trying to understand equity and the decarbonization of particular housing stock in a part of BC, for instance, is really challenging.

Although we know that there are partners in BC who are doing just that. They submitted a whole submission telling us how they’re doing it, and it’s granular and clear. And their approach is cost effective, or at least costed out, is taking into account grid implications where they are.

And that approach, that granularity is fantastic. And ideally we would be able to enable that kind of approach across the country and be aware of it so that we can align with what different local, municipal, provincial, and territorial partners are doing. So that’s what we’re seeking to understand right now.

We’ll need to, and we’ll have a kind of equity lens and an affordability lens overall for the building strategy, but a big part of it, it really is less about the high level lens and more the implementation pathway and what does it actually look like then? Once we put forward, various programs and work with partners who decarbonize the building sector at a local level, how do we ensure that’s done equitably?

And I don’t think that we hold all the levers to do that, but we certainly wanna enable the conversation.

Allison Mostowich

We just have some people that are a little bit curious to know, is there something, or can you comment on where you’re seeing the best opportunities? Or are you seeing quite a bit of feedback on a specific topic?

Anna White 

Consistently, everyone’s trying to figure this out: what is the right prioritization and sequencing for my area, for my district? How can we have consistency and predictability in what’s coming so that we can put forward business plans, and plans generally, to carbonize various parts of the building sector across the country. And what’s missing constantly is that transparency of information, so that we’re all looking at the same goal.

And so we’re seeking to do that as the first step, as part of the strategy. This first version of the strategy, I think really needs to enable a place where that information can be shared. But what it looks like yet, as I mentioned, I think earlier, is still tbd. Different jurisdictions, different industry partners are all expressing different needs that they have on what that collaboration would be.

And all from like capacity building, like wanting to know more about leap, bringing their construction industry partners in talking very specifically, which is almost like a skills development piece, to utility partners wanting to share information with each other on what’s working and what’s not, and how they might seek to decarbonize particular parts of cities.

And making sense of that and thinking through what needs to come first. To enable that collaboration and how do we build that capacity and that space for continued dialogue to me is really key. But it’s definitely not a silver bullet. , I wish there was one. It’s a complicated ultimately industrial transformation that we’re trying to actively manage and collaborate with partners across the country on.

Allison Mostowich

Is it possible for the public to see what priorities the provinces are emphasizing in the green building strategy discussions?

Anna White 

I think that’ll come through the strategy. Absolutely. We’re seeking consensus on milestones for the strategy.

We’re talking closely with our provincial and territorial colleagues, and the discussions are going really well. I find it to be very collaborative, and open conversations about not just having conversations now, but really wanting to figure out how we can continue to have discussions over time.

So yes, the conversations are ongoing. And ultimately you’ll see them as part of the strategy.

Allison Mostowich

So there is some concern in the fenestration industry that we are innovating products to improve efficiency, but possibly at the risk of adding embodied carbon. So what are the plans to include the embodied carbon equation that may conflict with efficient products?

Anna White

It’s absolutely essential that we get to embodied carbon. I think we’re all very aware of that. I talk about the building strategy as this is 1.0. It’s the first frame. And I don’t know if embodied carbon is the third or the fourth iteration of the building strategy.

But we need to move in that direction. We don’t have the information at the moment, so we’re really seeking to have an evidence informed approach that is able to track progress over time. We don’t have enough information in the building sector overall to do that with embodied carbon right now.

So we’ve gotta be building that information infrastructure. And that’s definitely a part of the discussions that we’re having. How, when and how do we get folks ready for that?

Allison Mostowich

I would like to give you the opportunity to leave us with one last message. If you had to ask this audience to go away with one message, what would that be?

Anna White

I would say, the words that are resonating in my head right now to think big as much as you can.

We all need to be working together to get to that net zero goal. And I find that when we can come together and take the expertise that we have in our own individual areas and bring them to the table with a wide lens on what we’re talking about and an openness to pivot, to understand that those pathways might change over time to be open into that dialogue.

And really seeking to collaborate is when we’re able to unlock new ideas, technologies, approaches, et cetera. And I think that’s where we need to be overall at the moment as partners, as we think about how we collaborate over time, how do we enable transparency and the willingness to try new things to maybe make mistakes.

To pivot and really live and breathe that with an open mind, I think we absolutely all need to get to that space to be able to make it to net zero together.


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