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Raising the bar on net-zero buildings

Banner with “Annual Report 2016–2017” on green background at the top. In a triangular shape on the left side: modern building with glass windows. Title of page: GMF zeroes in on net zero.

Illustration of two buildings with trees growing on one building’s rooftop garden (bottom right), and solar panels on the other roof (top left).

More municipalities building on net zero

Through the Green Municipal Fund (GMF), FCM continues to increase the capacity of municipalities to design and implement net-zero building projects that reduce energy consumption. FCM established net zero for new buildings as an eligibility criterion in GMF's 2015 offer.

A net-zero building is designed and built to include on-site renewable energy systems, such as solar and geothermal, so that the building may produce as much energy as it consumes on a yearly basis.

During 2016–2017, the GMF Council approved two studies and one capital project that are expected to deliver results that further raise the bar on net zero.

With net-positive projects, it is possible for buildings to produce more energy than they use on an annual basis

Case studies

To net zero and beyond in the City of Waterloo

  • Artist rendering of the new Centre for Sustainability Excellence in the City of Waterloo, ON. Credit: A.W. Hooker Associates for Stantec and the City of Waterloo, ON.
  • Artist rendering of the new Centre for Sustainability Excellence in the City of Waterloo, ON. Credit: A.W. Hooker Associates for Stantec and the City of Waterloo, ON.

Population99,000
Total project value$349,700
GMF grant$174,900

The City of Waterloo, ON, in partnership with the Region of Waterloo and Sustainable Waterloo Region, will study the feasibility of constructing and operating Canada’s largest (100,000–120,000 square foot) net-positive building. Known as the Centre for Sustainability Excellence, the building would generate more energy than it uses on an annual basis, by incorporating passive and active systems alongside renewable sources such as solar, geothermal and wind.

The feasibility study will also explore a range of innovative technologies and mechanisms, including:

  • Net-positive water use through rainwater collection, greywater recycling, and on-site wastewater treatment and stormwater management
  • Zero waste sent to landfill during construction and ongoing occupancy, through a series of procurement, waste-diversion and composting systems
  • Incorporation of a series of passive, living and mechanical systems to improve air quality and maintain a healthier interior environment

The study will generate valuable lessons for the municipal sector.

Breaking the bounds of net zero in Ontario

  • Woman in foreground, facing the rising sun, and framing it with her hands.

Population807,000
Total project value$176,000
GMF grant$88,000

The Ontario municipalities of London, Waterloo, Kitchener and Kingston will collaborate on research to identify barriers to net-zero development. Each city will focus on two sites and identify technical, financial and policy hurdles.

Although net-zero buildings are increasingly affordable and practical, their design, construction and operation are extremely complex for municipalities and developers alike. The work required to resolve these complexities often delays municipal approvals and acts as a powerful disincentive.

The proposed projects cover the full spectrum of developments: small and large; commercial, residential and industrial; greenfield, brownfield, re-urbanization and downtown infill. Municipal permitting practices will also be studied: mock proposals for net-zero developments will be prepared and subjected to existing review processes.

The results will identify policy challenges and how to meet them — important intelligence that FCM will share with municipalities across Canada.

Page Updated: 06/09/2017