The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in Canada

Green building

Like its counterpart in the United States, the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) has initiated the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program to both foster and accelerate the practice of sustainable methods in the building and renovating fields. LEED is a certification method that is now internationally recognized as a standard for the designing, building and maintaining of energy-efficient green buildings that work well with their surroundings.

Many people think that “green” means using strictly solar power and windmills as energy features. Although in many cases these processes are used, the term goes beyond just the mechanics of any structure. LEED brings together environmentalists, architects, contractors and business people under one roof to come up with the perfect building techniques.

Five (5) Key Performance Areas of Human and Environmental Design Sustainable Site Development

In most housing developments the lot is picked out and the builder's dream home is placed on it without regard for the land itself or the environment around it. By designing a dwelling or building for a certain land parcel many energy-efficient practices can be put in play. For example, using the natural light and heat of the sun can cut down on the carbon footprint of the home. Even in the cold Canadian winter the sun can be a powerful heating source and the windows should be used to take advantage of this free heat. Natural light will also keep light switches off.

As for the environment, a LEED certification will ensure that a pond or other body of water nearby will not be disturbed in the building process or by any effluent from sewer lines or mechanical systems. Natural underground springs and the water table will also be taken into consideration.

Water Efficiency

Not so long ago it was thought that Canada had endless reserves of potable water. Today we are finding that the aquifer is not as resilient as it used to be and is dangerously low in many areas. In addition, the amount of toxic particles in traditional water supplies is rising due to improper disposal methods by industries. The LEED program begins with “baseline water use.” This is projected figure for the amount of water a building will use when operational and includes water for drinking and toilet use as well as other factors like fountains. The building is given a water credit for reducing this baseline figure by a figure of 20%-30%. In the U.S. this has been achieved with low-flow toilets and timed water fixtures.

Energy Efficiency

Probably the biggest LEED credit is to do with using as little energy as possible. Standards for mechanical systems like heating and air-conditioning as well as electrical and lights play a big part in this area of certification. Purdy's Wharf in Halifax, for example, heats and cools the twin office towers using the geothermal properties of the harbour water while new buildings in the north draw on solar and wind power for badly-needed, and expensive, energy. For almost a century heating in northern Canada relied on gasoline or diesel generators and these are slowly being relegated to a back-up system.

Materials Selection

In no area has the green movement moved as far and so quickly as in material development. New and revolutionary building products like structural insulated panels and insulated concrete forms have changed the way contractors build homes. In addition, spray foam insulation, with its superior insulating and sealing properties, have helped drafty, older homes become as energy efficient as new ones.

Windows and doors is another area that has improved in home building. The new triple-pane, argon gas-filled systems have a coating to reflect heat back into the home on cold days and bar the sun on hot summer days.

Indoor Environmental Quality

One of the biggest concerns with making older homes and buildings energy efficient is to allow the air to be exchanged with fresh air from outdoors. New buildings are built with these codes in place as R-2000 compliant. However, all the air exchangers need vigilant maintenance otherwise an air system may be just a way to spread mold spores and viruses around a building. It is also important to note that volatile organic compounds (VOC) are present in many materials like carpet and laminate flooring so building designers have to take this into consideration.

Health can be determined in other ways as well. Acoustic privacy is becoming a large issue so sound deadening practices such as acoustic breaks and the isolation of equipment is of primary concern. In addition, the careful integration of natural and artificial light will make working in the building easier on an employee's health.

In these five areas the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™  is revolutionizing the way buildings and homes are constructed. Although the CaGBC's Canadian rating system is taken from the US Green Building Council's LEED Green Building Rating System it has been adapted for the Canadian culture: climate, construction practices and regulations. And like their American counterparts Canadian commercial builders are recognizing that a LEED-certified building not only saves the in operational costs it can also attract tax credits and make the structural more valuable to a buyer in the future.

For more information your LEED build project consult our Contractor Directory or simply post your project online at and have qualified contractors contact you.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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