Ontario’s drive to cut building emissions

Globally, buildings are responsible for 40% of annual energy consumption and up to 30% of all energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The building sector is also responsible for 12% of all freshwater use. With energy and water inextricably linked, reducing water consumption in buildings will in turn reduce GHG emissions.

Ontario’s drive to cut building emissions

In Ontario, private buildings, including offices, condominiums and retail stores, make up 19% of the province’s total GHG emissions in 2013. To reduce emissions in the sector, Ontario now mandates that all privately-owned buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger report their energy, as well as water, performance to the Ministry of Energy on an annual basis.

Owners of buildings that are 100,000 square feet and larger will also be requested to verify their data with a recognized professional in the first year of reporting and every 5 years afterward.

Ontario's push to reduce GHG emissions

Ontario’s push to reduce GHG emissions

The specific data that building owners are required to report on an annual basis includes:

  • Monthly energy and water consumption and performance data (energy and water use intensity, ENERGY STAR score (where available)
  • GHG emissions and intensity
  • Building characteristic information, e.g. gross floor area

The reporting requirement will be phased in over 3 years according to the building size (table 1.).

Table 1. Phased-in building energy, water and GHG emission reporting

Phased mandatory reporting timeline Commercial and industrial buildings Multi-unit residential buildings
By July 1, 2018 250,000 square feet and larger Not required to report in the first year
By July 1, 2019 100,000 square feet and larger 100,000 square feet and larger
By July 1, 2020 50,000 square feet and larger 50,000 square feet and larger

A public database to compare buildings

To show the public that large private sector-owned buildings are ‘doing their bit’ to reduce energy and water usage as well as GHG emissions, the Ministry of Energy will annually disclose a subset of the data reported by the building owners on Ontario’s Open Data website. The data will include property identification and building performance information such as ENERGY STAR score; energy, water and GHG intensity; building age; and confirmation of whether the data was verified by an accredited/certified professional.

This will encourage building owners to compete with one another and strive to improve their building performance each year. It also will enable property and financial markets to compare building performance and value efficient buildings, enabling the market to drive further energy- and water-efficiency investments.

To let building owners gain experience with reporting their data, the Ministry will not publicly disclose the first year of reported data for each of the 3 roll-out phases.

Overall the program will help building owners:

  • Manage energy and water use and costs more effectively
  • Identify best practices and energy- and water-saving opportunities
  • Set and achieve measurable goals
  • Evaluate results by comparing to similar facilities across the province

The take-out

Ontario is letting the private building sector figure out the best ways of reducing energy and water usage and associated GHG emissions in an open, transparent and competitive manner.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley) and founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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