Yuill Herbert, Board Member, Canada Research Chair on Sustainable Community Development, Royal Roads University. Director, Sustainability Solutions Group
Published June 22, 2007
In 2004, the City of Calgary was the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt a sustainable building policy, a policy that, amongst other things, commits all city-owned new building development and existing facilities undertaking major renovations to meet, or exceed, the silver level of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard. The city used a participatory and cross-departmental approach in developing its policy to ensure buy-in from independent business units. Additionally, the adoption of LEED as the city's standard helped familiarize consultants and developers with what has become an industry standard. LEED is a comprehensive approach that delivers ecological, social, and health benefits without imposing significant additional up-front costs, and results in long-term financial savings. The completed Cardel Place, Crowfoot Library and Country Hills Multi-Services Center are high profile and highly successful results of the adoption of the city-wide policy and its subsequent implementation through an industry-wide standard.
Sustainable Development Characteristics
Buildings clearly have significant ecological impacts. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that buildings in OECD countries account for 25 to 40% of total energy consumption (UNEP, 2007). Moreover, buildings represent a significant opportunity to reduce contributions to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). For example, Danny Harvey, a noted climatologist and economist argues that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 30% with no new technology by simply retrofitting existing buildings in Canada, and can achieve 60% GHG reductions with new technology.
By some estimates, the materials used for new building construction and repairs and renovations of existing buildings accounts for 40-50% of the total flow of raw materials in the global economy (ibid). The associated environmental impacts include the energy used for extraction, manufacture and transportation, the impact on the local ecosystem of, for example, mining or logging and ultimately disposal after the materials have exceeded their useful lifetime.
The City of Calgary selected the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design as one of its building standards (it is also piloting BOMA's Go Green standard on City-owned buildings), thus building on what is becoming a common certification standard. The environmental benefits of the LEED are widely documented including significant reductions in the consumption of water, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and materials usage. The LEED criteria also impacts the urban form through preference for the selection of brownfield sites and support for non-vehicular traffic modes.
While LEED is explicitly an environmental standard (hence the name Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a number of studies point to a range of social and economic impacts (Kats, 2006, Kats et al, 2003). A recent study, Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits (Kats, 2006) reviewed 30 schools that used green building strategies throughout the United States and assigned dollar values to those benefits (Table 1).
Table 1: Financial Benefits of Green Schools ($/ft2) (Kats, 2006)
|Water and wastewater||$1|
|Cold and flu reduction||$5|
|Cost of greening||$(3)|
|Net financial benefit||$71|
It follows that the benefits above could apply to all types of buildings. An extensive survey of the literature regarding the relationship between indoor environment and worker health by William Fisk (2000) concluded there is “relatively strong evidence that buildings and indoor environments significantly influence the occurrence of communicable respiratory illness, allergy and asthma symptoms, sick building symptoms, and worker performance”. Fisk estimated the potential annual value of improving indoor environmental quality in the US at from $6-$14 billion from reduced respiratory disease, from $1-$4 billion from reduced allergies and asthma, from $10-$30 billion from reduced sick building syndrome symptoms, and from $20-$160 billion from direct improvements in worker performance that are unrelated to health.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a workshop to initiate a discussion amongst a wide range of disciplines on the impacts of the built environment on mental and physical health (Dannenberg et al, 2003). The built environment has significant, yet variable influences on mental health as a source of stress, as an influence over social networks, through symbolic effects and social labeling, and through the action of the planning process itself (Dennard, 1997). The LEED does not explicitly address issues of mental or physical health; however, the LEED does include extensive implicit health advantages (Table 2).
Table 2: Health Benefits of LEED
|Health Benefit||LEED Credit (CaGBC, 2004)||Impact|
|Reduced public health hazards||SS 3 Redevelopment of contaminated sites||reduces public health hazards|
|WE 2: innovative wastewater technologies||reduces wastewater|
|Reduced use of off-gassing chemicals||EQ 4: Low-emitting materials|
reduces indoor air contaminants that are oderous, potentially irritating, and/or harmful to comfort or well being
|Walking and cycling||SS 2: Development density||encourages development in urban areas|
|SS 4.2: Alternative transportation||bicycle storage and changing rooms|
|SS 4.4 Alternative transportation||reduces parking requirements|
|Indoor air quality improvements||EQ Prereq 1: Indoor air quality||minimum indoor air quality standards|
|EQ Prereq 2: Environmental tobacco smoke||prevent or minimize exposure to tobacco smoke|
|EQ 1: Carbon dioxide monitoring||CO2 levels are an indicator of air quality|
|EQ 2: Ventilation effectiveness||ensuring sufficient levels of air change|
|EQ 3: Indoor air quality||managed air quality during construction|
|EQ 5: Indoor chemical and source pollutant control||minimized exposure of building occupants to potentially hazardous particulates|
|EQ 6: Controllability of systems||ensures the occupant has control over the thermal, ventilation and lighting systems|
|EQ 7: Thermal comfort||humidity, temperature and airflow|
|Use of dayliighting||EQ 8: Daylighting and views||provides a connection between indoor spaces and the outdoors through the introduction of daylight and views|
Note: WE= Water Efficiency, EQ= Environmental Quality, SS=Sustainable Site
Critical Success Factors
Leaders and Champions. The City of Calgary's Sustainable Building Policy was initiated and driven by a small group of employees and city councilors with the support of local architects and consultants. Thus, it had both concurrent political and bureaucratic champions, as well as leadership from practitioners. The idea for a proactive policy came out of the experiences of Richard Allen, the city's employee responsible for energy retrofits of city-owned buildings at the time. Allen realised that it would make more sense to design energy efficiency into new buildings as opposed to retrofitting these buildings post-occupancy. The initiative also relied on compelling communicators to describe the case for the policy. Many other individuals also made significant contributions to the development and implementation of the policy.
History of Environmental Leadership. The City of Calgary has a long history of environmental leadership including a wind-powered public transit system, recent significant decreases in per capita water consumption, the development of a 100-year sustainability plan through imagineCalgary, tracking of performance through the State of Environment Reports (initiated in 1998), and a 50 percent reduction target for city greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. The sustainable building policy was built on prior learning and was a natural compliment to existing initiatives.
Acceptance of LEED as the Market Standard. There are a wide range of green building rating tools. Among them are Building Operations and Managers Association GO Green (Canada), the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environment Efficiency (CASBEE) (Japan), GB Tool (developed for the Green Building Challenge), Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)(UK), and the LEED. In North America, the LEED has emerged, however, as the standard for new construction. There are now LEED projects in 24 countries, 35,575 LEED-accredited professionals, and more then 867 million square feet LEED certified (USGBC, 2007).
Community Contact Information
Russ Golightly, Project Manager,
Water Centre, City of Calgary
PO Box 2100
Karen Wichuk, Senior Sustainable Infrastructure Engineer
Corporate Engineering, City of Calgary
PO BOX 2100
The City of Calgary's Sustainable Building Policy was implemented in an inclusive and careful manner beginning in the summer of 2002. The founding committee included representatives from all the departments, including Environmental Management, Water Services, Waste & Recycling Services, building operations, health and wellness and the Aldermanic Office. The multi-stakeholder approach to the development of the policy was key to ensuring corporation understanding and consequently buy-in. The combination of political and administrative leadership as well as representation from across the city's business units helped to integrate the policy into the city operations. In 2003, a pilot project encompassing new building construction was introduced and succeeded in gaining consensus from both council and committee. The scope of the pilot project was then expanded from new buildings to include major retrofits.
At the societal level, the policy successfully both internalises and mitigates costs that are typically carried outside of the economic system, costs that are borne instead by the ecosystem, human health, and public infrastructure. The City of Calgary's policy essentially states that the city will bear the cost of reducing these impacts by building sustainable buildings. However, as it turns out the cost of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and toxic indoor environments actually results in financial savings for the city. By internalising environmental costs, the city is saving money through taking a win-win approach as advocated, in particular, by Hawken et al. in their book Natural Capitalism (1999).
The City of Calgary has an unwritten policy of leading by example as opposed to legislation and this policy is very much in that vein. The effect of its program has been the extensive involvement of consultants in each of the city's LEED projects, providing a training ground of sorts. From these experiences, the consultants in turn have been active in promoting green building strategies to their clients in the private sector and encouraging them to undertake LEED projects. In 2005, three City of Calgary facilities received LEED certification—the Crowfoot Library, the Country Hills Multi-Services Centre and Cardel Place. By the end of 2005, there were nine projects listed for LEED certification in Calgary and by the end of 2006, there were 28 (CaGBC, 2007). While this increase follows the general trend for LEED certification, in 2007, Calgary had the third highest number of LEED-registered projects in Canada.
- Cardel Place (LEED Gold) is designed to capture cold air from the outside and from the rink and melting snow for cooling purposes. Heat is reclaimed from the co-generation system for the swimming pool. The facility was designed to integrate naturally in the landscape, and by recessing part of the building into the hillside the insulating characteristics of the earth significantly reduce the building's energy needs as well as its exposure to rain, snow and wind. A study by Hemisphere Engineering Inc. compared Cardel Place against other recreation facilities: overall energy use index was approximately 20 percent better than the next best facilities and over 40 percent better than the least efficient facilities. Initial capital costs were 2 percent less than the closest facility and 15 to 20 percent less compared to the worst. Water reductions over the other facilities ranged from 65 to 90 percent (email correspondence with current Sustainable Infrastructure Manager, 2007).
Crowfoot Library (LEED certified) used natural daylight, energy efficiencies and other strategies to reduce its total electricity requirements by more then 30 percent.
- Country Hills Multi-Services Centre (LEED Silver) achieved an energy performance 52 percent better than the national energy code requirements. 79 tonnes of construction waste was diverted from the landfill and the naturalised landscape is exclusively irrigated through storm water collected and filtered through an on-side retention pond.
The Water Centre was also influenced by the policy. The Water Centre is the largest office building built by the City of Calgary in the last twenty years and combines two large city business units that were previously distributed in five separate buildings. The use of an Integrated Design Process (IDP), a common green building design strategy, fundamentally changed the nature of the project. Originally, the Water Centre was intended to host 180 people, however, in the course of the design process it became clear that it would make sense to house all of the related city employees in a single space and so the project grew to house 300-400 offices and 400 field staff.
Green building aspects include 70 percent storm water reductions, 50 percent reduction in potable water, 60 percent savings in annual energy consumption over a standard building, ventilation using fresh air, and day-lighting. The landscaping includes 5 acres of native grasses and wildflowers, demonstrating the use of low-water use plants and materials. The expected lifetime of the building is 100 years, twice that of comparable structures. It is also anticipated that the building will improve delivery of water services in Calgary by facilitating improved communication between employees who were previously in different buildings. Total construction cost was $33 million.
What Didn’t Work?
The City of Calgary's Sustainable Building Policy still has its challenges and detractors and while it is widely adopted, issues remain. The biggest challenge to a complete uptake relates to organizational structure; city business units operate independently and there are seven units that own buildings.
In the case of the Water Centre, a key challenge was the on and off loading of team members. For example, the office people in the construction management company work on design and tender and then pass it onto others to build the project. The transfer of knowledge regarding the green building strategies from one group to another can slow the process down and extra budgeting for this component would have been helpful. In addition, some aspects of integrated design and decision-making may be compromised.
Financial Costs and Funding Sources
A key feature of the city’s policy was a commitment that the policy would not result in additional total building costs, and the Water Centre was a successful example of this commitment. Certain green building strategies including high efficiency filters, construction waste management, the purchase of green power and additional commissioning work added approximately $200,000 to 300,000 to the total (less then one percent on a project costing $33 million), however, most of these items pay back through savings in operational costs. The mechanical and electrical strategies, for example, resulted in energy savings with a 12- to 15-year payback (Interview with project manager, 2007).
There is considerable debate as to whether green building strategies result in significantly higher capital costs. A survey of six early green building case studies in Canada indicated that there was actually a capital costs saving of 5.6 percent (+5%,+8%, -41%, 0%, 0%, -5.6%) (McDonald, 1997). However, other studies in the US indicate, on average, small premiums (Kats, 2003, 2006, Bradshaw, 2005). A more accurate conclusion that parallels the results in Calgary is “Costs range widely; some projects added significant costs and others actually saved money. In every case, an integrated design process and early commitment to sustainable design enable high achievement” (Matthiessen & Morris quoted in MacDonald, 2005). In the case of the Water Centre, after the IDP and a decision to combine two city departments, the budget increased significantly; however the project manager indicated that green building strategies for a project this size do not cost more then conventional construction. Cardel Place, as well, illustrated that significant capital and operating savings are possible within a conventional budget.
A verification system is another aspect of the policy, addressing the question of how well the buildings are performing. The policy relies on LEED verification systems as long as the cost of LEED certification, including consultants and pertinent analysis is less then $5.00 per square foot. If the anticipated cost for certification is higher then $5.00 per square foot, the building is not certified, but is instead reviewed by an independent third party to ensure it meets the Sustainable Building Policy minimum level of LEED silver certification (City of Calgary, 2005).
The City of Calgary's Sustainable Building Policy has been successful in delivering high quality, green buildings for city operations and achieved significant health and environmental benefits. While the policy covers only city-owned buildings, one interviewee indicated that consultants involved in city-owned green building projects were active in delivering green building projects to the private sector. The link, however, between city-owned green buildings and any uptake by the private sector of green building in Calgary is not clearly demonstrable, because the increase in green buildings in Calgary may also be attributable to a general trend of an increasing number of LEED-certified green buildings across Canada.
One component of the definition of sustainable development is equitable access to resources—ecological, social, and economic (Dale, 2001). While the City of Calgary's Sustainable Building Policy effectively addresses human health and environmental issues, and lowers the financial burden of city-owed buildings and infrastructure on future generations, it does not explicitly address this component of sustainable development. Other city programs including Encouraging Sustainable Communities and the Affordable Housing Strategy, do, however, address these areas and members of the team responsible for the sustainable buildings policy are actively involved in these initiatives.
Detailed Background Case Description
In 2001, the City of Calgary (2001) passed a comprehensive environmental policy that focused on leadership:
to conserve, protect and improve the environment for the benefit of Calgarians and the regional community. The City of Calgary will integrate sustainable social, economic, and environmental objectives into a co-ordinated decision-making process to maintain high standards of living, social harmony and environmental quality.
The city's Sustainable Building Policy (2005) came into effect on September 13th, 2004, after a year-long pilot program. The vision of the policy is as follows:
“The City will develop sustainable buildings that will enhance the indoor and outdoor environment, reduce the impact on natural resources and provide long-term savings to the citizens of Calgary.”
The policy defines a sustainable building as a building which:
“...integrates building materials and methods that promote environmental quality, economic vitality, and social benefit through the design, construction and operation of the built environment. A sustainable building merges sound, environmentally responsible practices into one discipline that looks at the environmental, economic and social effects of a building or built project as a whole. Sustainable design encompasses the following broad topics: appropriate management of land, efficient management of energy and water resources, management of material resources and waste, protection of environmental quality, protection of health and indoor and outdoor environmental quality and reinforcement of natural systems through the integrated design approach."
A key aspect of the City of Calgary's policy is its use of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as a standard. LEED was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC, 2007) a non-profit organization as a standardized system for rating new and existing commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings according to their environmental features. The LEED uses a point or credit system and based on the points achieved, assigns the levels of certified, silver, gold and platinum. LEED points are awarded in the areas of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design process. The Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) has modified the LEED standards for the Canadian context and is now certifying buildings in Canada.
A second important component is the policy's inclusion of life cycle analysis. A significant barrier to green building projects is a higher initial or capital costs, costs which frequently deliver both environmental benefits and operational savings, such as reduced electricity or water consumption over the life of the building. A conventional costing analysis considers only the capital costs and does not account for benefits over the life cycle of the building. The City of Calgary's policy specifically supports the life cycle costing approach with the goal of achieving the highest, most cost-effective environmental performance possible over the life of the facility, a significant shift in the city's approach to financing buildings.
In 2004, the City of Vancouver was another early adopter, creating a similar green building policy that committed all city projects to meet LEED, but at the gold level. The city's green building strategy, however, is a work-in-progress including a by-law review that is likely to include a regulatory component for all buildings constructed in Vancouver (Mikkelsen and French, 2005).
What are the key barriers to implementing sustainable building policies in other municipalities?
What is the impact of building design and green buildings in particular on mental health and worker productivity?
How can municipal or city policies address the issue of higher capital costs that result in long term benefits?
Resources and References
Bradshaw, William et al (2005). The Cost and Benefits of Green Affordable Building. New Ecology Inc and Tellus Institute. Available at www.newecology.org.
Canadian Green Building Council (2004). LEED Green Building Rating System: Reference Package for New Construction and Major Renovations Version 1.0. Available at www.cagbc.org.
Canadian Green Building Council (2007). Database of LEED registered projects. http://www.cagbc.org/leed/leed_projects/index.php Accessed March, 2007.
City of Calgary (2001). City of Calgary's Environmental Policy. www.calgary.ca.
City of Calgary (2005). Sustainable Building Policy. www.calgary.ca.
City of Calgary (2006). State of the Environment Report- Third Edition. www.calgary.ca.
Dale, Ann (2001). At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Dannenberg, Andrew et al (2003). The Impact of Community Design and Land-Use Choices on Public Health- A Scientific Research Agenda. Public Health Journals. American Journal of Public Health. September, 2003. Vol. 3, No. 9.
Dennard, Linday (1997). More then Bricks and Mortar? Mental Health and the Environment. Human Relations. A review of a book by David Halpern. Vol. 50, No. 4.
Fisk, William (2000). Health and Productivity Gains from Better Indoor Environments and Their Relationship with Building Energy Efficiency. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. 25:537–66.
Hawken, Paul, Lovins, Amory and Lovins, Hunter (1999). Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Little, Brown and Company. Website: http://www.natcap.org/.
Kats, Gregory (2006). Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits. Capital E. For the American Federation of Teachers, American Institute of Architects, American Lung Association, Federation of American Scientists and the US Green Building Council.
Kats, Greg et al (2003). The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings. Sustainable Buildings Task Force.
McDonald, Rodney (2005). The Economics of Green Building in Canada: Highlighting Seven Keys to Cost Effective Green Building. Thesis for Royal Roads University.
Mikkelsen, Dale and French, Trish (2005). Vancouver Green Building Strategy. Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment. City of Vancouver.
NRCAN, (2007). Update of Commercial Building Incentive Program 2006-2007 Funding. Office of Energy Efficiency. http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/commercial/newbuildings.cfm.
United Nations Environment Program (2007). Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities. www.unep.org. Accessed March 20, 2007.
United States Green Building Council (2007). Green Building, USGBC and LEED. www.usgbc.org.