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According to the Canada Green Building Council, the Dream Unlimited LeBreton in Ottawa is Canada’s largest residential zero-carbon development. The innovative approach, designed in partnership with Purpose Building, includes heating with energy recovered from a municipal sewer under the site feeding electric heat pumps and generating a portion of its electricity with photovoltaic panels.Supplied

With over 16 million dwellings and about 500,000 commercial and public buildings, Canada’s building sector is responsible for 13 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This number is even higher – 18 per cent – if electricity-related emissions are included, according to Natural Resources Canada. The emissions have grown 30 per cent since 1990, with only a one-year slow-down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 75 per cent of building emissions come from space and water heating equipment, and Doug Webber, principal at Purpose Building, proposes that with today’s technologies and financial models, we can cost-effectively reduce operating carbon in new and existing buildings by more than half.

Case studies from Purpose Building projects show that such significant reductions are within reach, says Mr. Webber. “In one example, we are leading a $40-million retrofit of a 50-year-old, 2-million-square-foot, multi-building office complex. The result will be a 75 per cent reduction in carbon and a modest increase in operating cost of 5 per cent over the next 20 years, compared to business as usual.”

The goal of the company is to help clients develop and implement strategies that prepare them for a healthy, circular, low-carbon economy. “Our deep understanding of how buildings are designed, constructed and operated – paired with extensive experience in the business of real estate – allows us to give project teams the confidence to achieve positive change by accelerating the adoption of solutions for a better future,” says Mr. Webber. “We are working with several of Canada’s global real estate groups, with over $100-billion of combined assets under management, to develop and implement pathways to zero carbon for their portfolios.”

In addition to developing strategies to decarbonize real estate portfolios, the Purpose Building team supports these plans by “executing low-carbon transitions on individual buildings.”

" Our deep understanding of how buildings are designed, constructed and operated – paired with extensive experience in the business of real estate – allows us to give project teams the confidence to achieve positive change by accelerating the adoption of solutions for a better future.

Doug Webber
Principal at Purpose Building

While existing cleantech innovation can help to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, Mr. Webber advocates for supporting research and innovation to enable us to better address the entirety of emissions from the built environment, including embodied carbon.

“We have proven that we can cost-effectively deliver 70 per cent reductions in operating carbon in both new and existing commercial buildings and about 30 per cent reduction in the carbon embodied in the materials used to construct or renovate those buildings,” he says. “Yet we don’t yet see a viable path for dealing with the rest of the carbon.”

What can make a difference is advancing innovation in areas as diverse as material science, energy systems and business models to deliver outcomes like:

  • clean electrical grids supporting cold-weather heat pumps;
  • circular supply chains for building materials; and
  • business models where decision-making is aligned with climate change time horizons.

“Getting to zero carbon can seem a big challenge, but at Purpose, we believe by creating a clear picture of the desired outcome and pursuing collaboration excellence we can inspire partnerships across industries, academia and the public sector,” says Mr. Webber, who points to Canada’s Clean50 for the breadth of talent available in Canada. “This can enhance our position as a magnet for global talent and future-proof Canada’s economy and infrastructure.”


Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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