Canada's LEED to Raise Standard

Don Procter

October 2007

Canada’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program is about to raise the green bar and its new standard will likely have a positive impact on the EIFS industry. As it stands, LEED in Canada is similar to the U.S. version from which it was adopted. LEED certificates (Platinum, Gold, Silver or a standard LEED) are awarded to developers that meet specific design criteria. The problem has been, however, that some buildings haven’t performed up to their design specs. Therefore, the CaGBC is moving to incorporate a performance-driven element into the evaluation of LEED buildings.

"What is important now is that we measure the performance of the buildings to ensure that they operate at optimum efficiency,” says Thomas Mueller, president of the Canada Building Green Council (CaGBC), LEED’s administrator.

Simply put, the new LEED evaluation system gives developers a "first-level certification” once the design of the building is completed and assessed by LEED experts, followed by a second level certification based on completion of the construction of the building. After the building has operated for a year, it will be evaluated again on its performance.

"Only if the building meets its LEED target, will it get that third level of certification,” Mueller explains. The three-level certification is called LEED Complete.

John Garbin, president of the EIFS Council of Canada, says the council sees the move to performance monitoring as "a positive step” in the evolution of LEED. "It will further validate the confidence in our technology,” he says. "EIFS has continually shown that we deliver what we say we’re going to deliver. You can model all you want, but it is not until you get your gas bill that you really see the benefit of EIFS.”

Doug Webber, sustainability practice leader, Halsall Associates Limited, agrees. Studies have shown that in actual performance testing of LEED buildings, while the majority of LEED certified buildings got a passing grade, some did not. Moving to performance testing will ensure that all LEED buildings meet the ratings they claim to meet.

"It’s the next phase in the evolution of green buildings in North America. It is a massive change on how we think about buildings and communities: moving from design performance to measured performance,” says Mueller, adding that green leaders in the United States are watching the CaGBC’s move closely.

Over the next several months, LEED Complete pilot projects will start up in schools, government buildings, residential and commercial projects across Canada. New and existing commercial/institutional construction is expected to be fully integrated under the LEED Complete umbrella by 2009.

Mueller says developers that the CaGBC has talked to "are quite excited” about the move. It will give many of them a "marketing edge” because they can provide data to clients illustrating how well their building is performing. "And it will demonstrate corporate responsibility with regard to climate change and other environmental issues.”

From a study by Halsall for the City of Toronto on green standards adopted by international cities, the consultant identified a number of cities developing LEED or LEED-equivalent programs. Most of those cities, however, don’t incorporate building performance evaluations. "That means most of them don’t know if their program is working or not,” Webber explains.

LEED has also been adopted by the federal government and some provincial governments. Mueller says the program’s reputation has come a long way in a few short years. Initially it was viewed as an initiative supported primarily by government. "Today close to 40 percent of the buildings certified are in the private sector.”