Capital News Online

University of Ottawa's living wall in Faculty of Social Sciences. [Photo by: © Rielly Riggs]

In 2005, the City of Ottawa adopted a green building policy, leading to the City committing to what it calls a “sustainable existence.” One of the policy requirements is that all the city buildings of a certain size must be LEED Canada certified by the Canada Green Building Council. Since that time, Ottawa has seen 21 LEED certified projects.

Capital News checked in with three experts in sustainable design and development to see how Ottawa is doing so far. 

James McNeil – JJ McNeil Inc.

 James McNeil, a commercial real estate a gent in Ottawa who specializes in LEED-certified buildings and sustainable design, acknowledges the changes Ottawa has made in commercial developments and office spaces. However, rather than being focused on policies, McNeil says it’s all about the business of it.

“When we start to look at sustainability, especially in the commercial real estate sector, it’s really become about the best-in-class business process. We’ve got many landlords that have adopted that business process and those philosophies.” says McNeil.

McNeil says that many of the improvements in commercial sustainable design have been due to to competition from other businesses, and the success seen from having an environmentally friendly investment is making it more appealing for others.

But when Ottawa is compared to other Canadian cities, McNeil says there is plenty of room for improvement.

“We’re a government town — that’s the thing. The federal government helps drive the market,” he says.

Ottawa’s small downtown core. [Photo by © Rielly Riggs]

“The City of Ottawa itself, not so much. That’s the subtle nuances when we start to compare city to city. When we look at bigger cities, like Toronto, they have big companies, like Telus, who are driving the green building agenda in a meaningful way.”

McNeil understands that commercial developments can’t make an impact in sustainable developments without residential developments doing the same. However, residential developments can be a challenge.

McNeil says that consumers are still reluctant to invest in energy-efficient developments. Instead, he says they appear to be more focused on superficial factors.

However, there are some bright spots in Ottawa.

“We are far more energy efficient in developments than what was being built ten years ago.  The Canadian Green Building Council is doing well here,” says McNeil. “About 37 per cent of the total office space in Ottawa — public and private — has received LEED certification of silver and above. It’s doing fairly well.”

Renee Rietveld, Canada Green Building Council

The Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) is the organization that does the LEED certification throughout the country, ensuring developments meet or exceed the standard for energy consumption and environmentally-friendly options.

Renee Rietveld, communications manager of CaGBC, agrees with McNeil in regards to Ottawa’s success with LEED certified buildings.

The Ottawa Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. [Photo by © Rielly Riggs]

“Ottawa has done reasonably well in sustainable design. CSV Architects in town designed the 4-storey Salus Clemintine Building to the rigorous ‘passive house’ standard.” says Rietveld.

The Passive House Standard is one of the world’s best when it comes to energy-efficient development standards. In order to hold this standard, a development would require only minimal energy for heating and cooling to maintain comfortable room temperatures.  Currently, Ottawa has five developments that meet the Passive House Standard, all of which are residential developments.

CSV Architects in Ottawa specialize in LEED-certified design, energy modelling, and passive solar design building. 

“Windmill Developments as well has achieved several LEED certified buildings, and its new Zibi project will see the sustainable live-work-play community.”

Jonathan Rausseo, University of Ottawa’s Manager of Campus Sustainability

The University of Ottawa relies on sustainable architecture to make its campus more energy efficient

Jonathan Rausseo, the Manager of the Office of Campus Sustainability, knows that the biggest weakness on campus is the lack of green space.

University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Social Science building, one of Ottawa’s LEED gold certified buildings. [Photo by © Rielly Riggs]

“We’re green-spaced challenged being in the middle of the city. With that comes pressure for our development to be sustainable.” says Rausseo. “We know a park on campus would be nice, but a 15-storey energy-efficient building would be better here.”

The University of Ottawa aims to make all new construction projects meet a Silver LEED certification and to reduce energy consumption by 2 per cent each year. The University campus has two buildings with Gold LEED status, and another two with the Silver certification. However, the five upcoming developments have yet to reach any LEED certification.

“For us at the University of Ottawa, a sustainable campus is a campus that is working towards reducing its environmental footprint. It’s looking at processes and focusing on energy consumption in buildings and renewable energies.” says Rausseo.

“Architecture is a nice thing, but you build a building, and you build it once. The operations are key.”

Ottawa’s new residential developments, such as the Zibi development along the Ottawa River, suggest that sustainable development and design in Ottawa are on the rise. Businesses have to prove that sustainable design is a worthwhile investment, while the City manages to implement green building policies to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations.

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