WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
We need to use energy responsibly. We can do so by first designing buildings that demand less, second by using efficient systems, and third by integrating renewable systems.
Energy derived from oil, coal and natural gas resources, and are considered combustion-based fuels that emit greenhouse gas emissions and are non-renewable resources. While the International Energy Agency recognizes that the remaining quantity of these resources vary, reliance on non-renewable energy sources is not sustainable in the long term. The notion of peak oil cannot be relied upon to initiate a shift to renewable energy. Accessing these resources involves increasingly destructive extraction processes, uncertain supplies, escalating market prices, and national security vulnerability.1
Nuclear energy currently supplies 11% of the world’s electricity, about one third of all low carbon generation.2
According to the International Energy Agency, the renewable energy supply is a rapidly growing and important industry:
- Renewable energy currently constitutes 24 percent of world energy use and will reach 30% in 2022—solar, wind, hydroelectric (low-impact), biomass, waste, wave, tidal and geothermal.3
- In 2016 renewables were responsible for almost two-thirds of net new power capacity and new solar PV capacity around the world grew by 50%.4
While the production of renewable technologies is on the rise, the cost of photovoltaic technologies are in decline, as much as 10% to 15% per year from 2010 through 2016, making it more accessible for projects although estimates vary across sources.5
Buildings Consume Massive Amounts of Energy
Buildings consume an extraordinary amount of energy through the extraction and manufacturing of materials, construction and operations. According to the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Energy Agency, buildings and construction account for more than 35% of global final energy use and nearly 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.6
Recognizing the impact that buildings have from an energy and carbon emissions standpoint, we have a responsibility to use our resources wisely and integrate renewables whenever possible to mitigate the effects of climate change.
In response to the impact that buildings have from an energy and carbon perspective, we are witnessing a change in regulatory requirements. Key leaders include:
- The City of Vancouver Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning requires all Path A rezoning projects to meet either Passive House certification or an alternate near zero emissions building standard or Path B rezoning projects to meet LEED Gold certification7.
- The Province of BC has enacted an energy step code which requires buildings to be ‘net zero ready’ by 20328.
Energy conservation starts with:
- Reducing the need for energy: focus on design that reduces overall energy needs with strategies such as building orientation, envelope design, glazing selection, and the choice of climate-appropriate building materials.
- Using energy more wisely: integrate passive heating and cooling and natural ventilation, and using high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in conjunction with smart controls.
- Supplying energy from carbon neutral sources: generate renewable energy on the project site or the purchase of green power allows portions of the remaining energy consumption to be met with non– fossil fuel energy, lowering the demand for traditional sources.
- Changing inhabitant behaviour: engage and educate inhabitants about the impact of behaviour on building operations and performance.
- Reference Guide for Building Design and Construction, v4, page 319
- “Energy ministers include nuclear in the clean energy mix.” World Nuclear. https://www.world-nuclear.org/press/press-statements/energy-ministers-include-nuclear-in-the-clean-ener.aspx
- “Solar leads the charge in another record year for renewables.” IEA. (https://www.iea.org/publications/renewables2017/)
- “Solar photovoltaic costs are declining, but estimates vary across sources.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. (https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=35432)
- “Global Status Report 2017.” UN Environment. (https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/UNEP%20188_GABC_en%20(web).pdf)