Climate Update # 19 - Calgary Building Services
In the Calgary Climate Resilience Strategy, Calgary Building Services was identified as a vital department for helping The City meet our climate targets. Two thirds of Calgary’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from buildings and the associated energy consumption. A priority for The City is working with City departments and Calgary’s development industry to find ways to enhance building standards to more than what the energy codes currently dictate, in order to reduce GHG emissions. Importantly, a significant portion of the buildings that will exist in Calgary in 2050 have already been built today. It’s estimated that approximately half of our current stock of buildings will still be in use in 2050, depending on Calgary’s growth.
Some of the functions and offerings of Calgary Building Services are to provide development permits, issue residential and commercial building permits, and permits for businesses that operates out of a home in a residential neighbourhood. As an important gateway for the development industry, Building Services is in a crucial position to be a leader at The City to set strong environmental standards and incentives for reducing GHG emissions.
- Calgary Building Services has begun to implement policy initiatives to provide a vision for reducing GHG emissions in buildings.
- Calgary Building Services has been working closely with Environmental & Safety Management to compile baseline data of GHG emissions for City projects and vehicular emissions. This data gathering is an important first step, and any data should be published and shared for all stakeholder groups to improve energy knowledge.
What not working?
- Calgary Building Services does not have a comprehensive development or building permit(s) strategy to encourage energy efficient designs.
- The average life span for a building in Calgary is 80 years. It is important that we understand and manage the energy consumption in buildings to save energy and money in the long term. Calgary Building Services has some data on energy consumption, but much of this is by proxy from the private sector. Unfortunately, definitive data is sparse or missing all together.
- Calgary Building Services noted that a utility pricing structure does not create economic incentives for energy efficiency. Building Services claims that having fixed charges and variable rates that decrease with consumption are antithetical to the economics of energy efficiency. I encourage Building Services to continue to work with other City departments to find ways to incentivize building owners and residents to reduce energy consumption and enhance energy efficiency through monetary and non-monetary means.
- Calgary Building Services relies upon the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (2017) and the Alberta Building Code (2014) for energy considerations in buildings. Although outdated, these codes represent a minimum standard for improving energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the enforcement of these codes is inconsistent by Calgary Building Services and City departments. Calgary Building Services is beginning work on meaningful direction for energy efficiency by updating internal energy codes. However, to meet our GHG reduction, building standards in Calgary must improve more quickly than the NECB and ABC energy codes currently dictate.
Similar to how I felt after meeting Corporate Analytics and Innovation, I was disheartened by the small steps that Calgary Building Services has made toward climate action. Calgary Building Services has been critical of their own progress to this point and have identified key goals and areas of work. This is a good first step, but it’s not enough. Buildings make up 65 per cent of our GHG emissions. Collectively, we are falling behind and will not come close to meeting our conservative climate targets.
Calgary Building Services recognizes that a holistic suite of approvals is necessary to encourage higher energy performance for buildings. Stronger energy codes are a vital part of improving building standards and reducing our GHG emissions. Many of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built today. Energy performance of the existing building stock will need to improve through energy efficient equipment and conservation through improved building envelopes. Despite the economic benefits, many residential and commercial building owners are not investing in better energy performance. This may be due to lower financial incentives. For any new builds, Building Services and Corporate Analytics and Innovation must work together to be leaders for The City and private industry to ensure that buildings meet current and new, aggressive standards.
Calgary Building Services has begun compiling a toolkit for greening existing buildings. This is similar to a concept from the City of Melbourne, where the idea is to improve asset performance. A key part of the toolkit is to have individual building owners conduct an energy audit for the purpose of identifying areas where replacement of equipment or altering operational procedures can save energy and costs of operating.
Building Services, in conjunction with Environmental and Safety Management and Corporate Analytics and Innovation, must demonstrate leadership to the development industry. They have begun developing a program to support large industrial energy users. Calgary Building Services is working to continue to drive improved energy code for buildings, with an additional focus on deployment of renewable energy. This work is currently underway and is in consultation with Provincial authorities and industry.