Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Buildings can be certified based on their design and actual performance; Wisconsin companies will be able to assist in the construction of buildings that meet this new standard.

Devised by the Canada Green Building Council (CGBC), the Zero Carbon Building Standard is the first green building program in Canada to use carbon emissions as the prime indicator of building performance.

This standard not only gauges a building's energy efficiency, but also promotes careful choices about the types of energy used and encourages renewable energy generation both on and offsite. It can also be applied to a broad array of buildings, including new and existing commercial, institutional and multi-family buildings.

Zero Carbon Building Standard requirements include demonstrating a zero carbon balance, providing a zero carbon transition plan, installing a minimum of 5 percent onsite renewable energy, meeting a thermal energy demand intensity target, reporting energy use and peak demand intensities, and reporting the building's embodied carbon.

There are two certifications administered under the Zero Carbon Building Standard:

  1. the Design Certification, which models a zero carbon balance, highly efficient envelope and onsite renewable energy systems; and
  2. the Performance Certification, which is awarded based on a 12-month period spent evaluating performance on peak electricity impacts and greenhouse gas emissions associated with structural and envelope materials. (The Performance Certification results must be verified annually.)

The CGBC is currently working with 16 projects across Canada as part of the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, which will test the standard's applicability and shape its development. These projects range in size from 20,000 to 1.3 million square feet and include buildings such as the City of Vancouver's Zero Emissions Fire Hall and the major renovation of the Arthur Meighen Building in midtown Toronto.

Furthering the initiative was the Zero Carbon Buildings Working Group, whose membership includes government bodies, industry members and academia working to identify the needs and challenges of promoting a green building standard in Canada. Approximately 50 people representing 40 building sector organizations were consulted during the Zero Carbon Building Standard's development.

Wisconsin firms in the renewable energy and construction sectors have an opportunity to contribute to this initiative by offering their products and services.