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Green Growth – Economic and Environmental BenefitsFeb 22, 2016
By Leah Wong
In the latest edition of Novae Res Urbis, (NRU Publishing), reporter Leah Wong spent time interviewing TRCA's own Bernie McIntyre to get his take on the recently released report by the Canadian Green Building Council and The Delphi Group on how both the economy and environment can benefit from green building.
In discussions about green building there has long been an idea that the environmental benefits are at odds with the economy, despite the green building industry supporting close to 300,000 jobs across the country. A new report puts that myth to bed. The report from the Canada Green Building Council and The Delphi Group quantifies the economic benefits of the green building industry and shows how investments in the industry boost the economy.
"Our work has primarily been driven by environmental considerations. But, green building in Canada and other countries has been very successful not only because of the environmental benefits but because of the very strong business case," CaGBC president and CEO Thomas Mueller told NRU. "The report shows the [government] policies have had a positive impact on the environment and on the business side. Until very recently these two [were seen] as being mutually exclusive."
In 2014, Canada's green building industry generated about $23.45-billion in gross domestic product and directly supported 297,890 jobs. This is more jobs than generated by the oil and gas extraction, mining and forestry industries combined. industries combined. In Canada, Ontario has experienced the greatest investment in sustainable building design with 153,690 jobs generated, which is about 2.1 per cent of the province's labour force, more than half of the green building jobs in Canada.
"We want people to see that the green building movement, the alternative fuels movement and the renewable energy movement are all ways you can help improve environment," Toronto and Region Conservation Authority community transformation senior manager Bernie McIntyre told NRU.
"This report closes the loop and shows... this is also really important for the economy."
When it comes to sustainability it's important to consider the environment, McIntyre added, but it's also important to consider the social and economic impacts.
"The report says we can be a leader and an economic leader, around buildings and the whole green building and green building product and supplier sector. It is a huge piece of our economy," said McIntyre.
Both Mueller and McIntyre see the federal government's commitment to investing in green infrastructure as an opportunity for Canada to play a greater leadership role in sustainability. Though the environmental benefits have driven much of the progress to date, Mueller said the broader benefits are job creation and innovation.
"We have a huge opportunity to become leaders in green buildings and green infrastructure. That can be a huge economic lift for all [Canadian] municipalities going forward," said McIntyre. "We're also managing the environment by doing it."
Mueller sees opportunities for further job growth in research and development to support the green building industry. For the sector to continue to grow there will need to be advancements in products, technologies and techniques. If Canada is to become a leader and invest in these innovations, Mueller says it must leverage opportunities to market technologies and products internationally.
McIntyre said the region is well positioned to be a leader in the North American market given the volume of building product and service suppliers in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. This can be seen at the TRCA's Living City Campus at Kortright, which was developed to showcase the best sustainable technologies and practices related to green buildings and renewable energy and to test their performance.
"If you look at the work we're doing at the Living City Campus... we're positioned to help builders and the building sector innovate," said McIntyre. "And to make those innovations real for our municipal partners... and for the building [trades] and developers to find, touch, feel and utilize those technologies. [It] helps them become leaders and really embrace this green building movement."
The City of Toronto has been a leader in sustainability with policies such as its green building standards. McIntyre said this has influenced other municipalities around the GTA to follow Toronto's lead.
While city policies have influenced the number of green buildings in Toronto, Mueller said there has also been voluntary buy-in from the industry because building owners see sustainability as a good investment.
McIntyre noted that interest in becoming LEED certification came out of the commercial office sector and was driven by tenants of Class A properties. Civic Action has also played a role through its Race to Reduce program, which encourages energy reduction through a friendly competition. [See NRU August, 21 Toronto edition.]
And Toronto isn't just sitting on its laurels, it has new initiatives underway. Council approved the terms of reference for the two-year Transform TO project in May. Since then a number of public discussions have been held and a consultant has been retained to model various low-carbon scenarios for the year 2050 to help the city create a roadmap to meet its emission reduction goals. There are four community forums scheduled for March and April.
The Living City Campus at Kortright