City committee to debate stronger green-building standards in Ottawa

The City of Ottawa wants all new subdivisions and larger developments to meet a new, stronger set of municipal green-building standards.

Focus on new developments follows Toronto's lead as buildings are big emitters of greenhouse gases

New homes are shown from above in various levels of construction in Ottawa's western Kanata neighbourhood last May. The City of Ottawa intends to require future subdivisions to adhere to a community energy plan in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The City of Ottawa wants all new subdivisions and larger developments to meet a new, stronger set of municipal green-building standards.

When city council approved tougher targets a few years ago for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a road map to reach net-zero by 2050, city staff started working on standards aimed at one of two main sources of emissions locally: buildings.

It's easier to design a new building to be energy efficient from the get-go than to retrofit older buildings, staff note in a report that goes to the city's planning committee on March 10. 

City staff have crafted a "high performance development standard" for Ottawa, which they anticipate would take effect in a bylaw on June 1. They based it on the Toronto Green Standard, which that city has used since 2010, and say the provincial Planning Act gives municipalities the authority to roll out such rules.

During consultations some environmental advocates felt it didn't go far enough, city staff note, while the construction industry felt they would be too hard to hit and would add costs. Delegations can sign up to five-minute presentations to planning committee next week.

New checklists

The new rules would not apply to projects that need only a building permit, or small residential infill projects or low- or mid-rise buildings.

Larger buildings that require the city to approve a site plan would have 15 new metrics to meet, though. They would have to show a building would use only so many kilowatt hours of energy per year, for instance.

Other rules would lead to more bird-friendly glass, green roofs, and high-quality soil for street trees while not planting any invasive plant species.

Subdivisions would have three metrics, such as submitting a "community energy plan." It would give scenarios for how much energy the community would use, and show how that could be reduced through high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, overhangs to shade from the sun, and preparing for electric vehicles, for instance.

To push builders to hit even loftier goals, staff intend to come up with financial incentives by the spring of 2023. They also anticipate this new standard will need updating to get to its ultimate goal of net-zero emissions, so versions two and three are already anticipated for 2026 and 2030.

All of these steps only relate to the exterior, and are separate from the specific construction criteria of Ontario's building code. Staff recommend Mayor Jim Watson also write the Ontario government to update those rules to align with climate change targets.


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