Skip to Content
View site list


Pre-Bid Projects

Pre-Bid Projects

Click here to see Canada’s most comprehensive listing of projects in conceptual and planning stages


CAGBC celebrates launch of ZCB Version 4

Don Wall
CAGBC celebrates launch of ZCB Version 4
DON WALL - From left, Wendy Macdonald of Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd., Guillaume Martel of Provencher_Roy Architectes and Alex Blue of Evoke Buildings Engineering Inc., chairs of three CAGBC working committees preparing a new version of the council’s Zero Carbon Building — Design Standard, discussed ZCB Version 4 at the recent Building Lasting Change conference.

Version 4 of the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building – Design Standard was launched in Toronto June 5 amidst a celebratory buzz in the room, and CAGBC ZCB advocate Michael Sugar says he knows why.

“I think it’s proof that the standard is working at catalyzing change in the market,” said Sugar, acknowledging the high-volume chatter from the audience. “It’s proof of the growth that we’re seeing in the standard and its effectiveness of driving down emissions.

“The number of people who contributed to the standard who are sitting here are just kind of celebrating, because it was a lot of work for nine months, very intense.”

V4 was introduced at the CAGBC’s Building Lasting Change conference with many of the 55 or so industry advocates who sat on the three working committees in attendance. As with previous versions, in many cases the standards are tougher to meet, Sugar explained, but that is a key goal of ZCB and reflects evolving market needs.

Statistics presented at the conference indicated that uptake of the three previous versions has been strong and last year there was a doubling in design certifications. One hundred buildings have been ZCB certified.

“There’s great adoption across the industry,” said Sugar, the director of ZCB at the CAGBC.

Each version provides more data, enabling deeper insights into key performance indicators from different building types, said Sugar. That allows the CAGBC to refine its approach and redraw important thresholds.

“We’ve seen as the quality of project data grows, we’re also seeing ZCB design being recognized as a tool to unlock financing and funding from credit unions and banks, the FCM, CMHC and the Green and Inclusive Community Building Program, which is through Infrastructure Canada,” said Sugar.

The chairs of the three working committees were Wendy Macdonald of Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd., Alex Blue of Evoke Buildings Engineering Inc. and Guillaume Martel of Provencher_Roy Architectes. MacDonald recalled that two years ago, when Version 3 was released, she and others participated in a similarly heady exercise, asking participants what they wanted to see in the next version.

“’Oh my gosh, embodied carbon,’” was mentioned repeatedly she said. “We’ve got to do something about embodied carbon and kick this up a bit.”

“Embodied carbon is a huge piece,” said Sugar, differentiating it from energy efficiency, which has a dollar calibration attached to it.

“Embodied carbon is a totally different animal.”

The chairs highlighted six major initiatives in Version 4:

Embodied carbon

ZCB-Design v4 sets more stringent requirements for embodied carbon. Pathways to reducing embodied carbon include improvement against a baseline or meeting an embodied carbon intensity threshold. Given the increase in warehouses and distribution centres pursuing ZCB certification, the new standard also differentiates based on their unique requirements.


Onsite combustion

Over 78 per cent of Canadian building emissions emanate from fossil fuel combustion for space heating and service hot water. Version 4 continues the last version’s focus on eliminating combustion with new limits for space heating and the introduction of limits for service hot water production.



The new standard includes detailed guidance for evaluating future design conditions and assessing the risks of overheating and wildfire smoke. 


Good grid citizenship

The committee felt it was important that designs consider the impact of buildings on electrical grids in terms of load and peaking. Version 4 introduces four good grid citizenship strategies.



This was a significant gap in previous versions, Macdonald said. V4 expands the range of mechanical equipment that must be included and introduces caps due to the global warming potential of refrigerants. 


Zero Carbon Transition Plan:

For buildings that will continue to rely on onsite combustion for some space heating or service hot water, Version 4 requires evaluation and pricing of an alternative design approach that does not use onsite combustion.

Sugar noted the U.S. and other jurisdictions are keeping pace with more robust standards every year but he said Canada continues to show global leadership, as it has since V1 was launched in 2017.

“If we’re going to actually hit our climate targets, we have to get ambitious,” said Sugar. “So we think that we’ve struck the right balance with ambition and achieving. That’s really hard to do, and I feel like we’ve done that.”

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Recent Comments

Your comment will appear after review by the site.

You might also like