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Climate and housing both part of the same solution: Iveson

Warren Frey
Climate and housing both part of the same solution: Iveson
WARREN FREY — Task Force for Housing and Climate Change co-chair and former Edmonton mayor Don Iveson (left) recently spoke at the BC Council of Forest Industries about the need to link housing priorities with climate change resiliency. COFI director of sustainability Zara Rabinovitch (right) moderated the discussion.

Edmonton’s former mayor is optimistic the housing and climate crises can be addressed together and to everyone’s benefit.

Don Iveson spoke at the BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) annual conference held recently in Vancouver in a keynote address where he touched on the need to interconnect housing initiatives with climate change adaptation.

In addition to working as executive adviser on climate investing and community resilience for Co-Operators Insurance, Iveson is also co-chair of the Task Force for Housing and Climate, which aims to address the housing crisis while including measures to increase climate change resilience.

“We were tasked with an additional lens. How do we deliver that housing in a climate-smart way and make sure these houses will be resilient to the weather they’re going to experience in the coming decades, in the life of the structure and not represent more risk, drive up insurance premiums or be at the risk of loss if they were situated in the wrong place or built inadequately to the perils that we’re seeing coming at us already,” Iveson said.

He added homebuilders will have to ensure emissions aren’t locked into builds that undermine the national Emissions Reduction Plan.

“It’s a lot of houses requiring a lot of energy if they’re not efficient. So building them to a higher standard to reduce the carbon, both in the construction side and wood plays a huge role in that, but also making sure they’re tight buildings that can protect people from heat and extreme cold,” he said. “It’s really putting a climate-smart lens on the needed housing growth in the country. No-one had ever looked at that in a Canadian context.”


Densification, transportation options are key

Iveson also warned the demographic makeup and labour pool of the previous big housing push after the Second World War was the exact opposite of current circumstances.

“We’re constrained in a lot of ways by high labour costs, high material costs, high land costs and high energy costs. We have to build in a way that responds to that,” he said.

While it’s impossible to replicate the conditions our grandparents enjoyed, he said, a similar quality of life can be derived through densification and different transportation options.

“The shape of our cities is changing already because of these market fundamentals. Our regulatory frameworks, infrastructure priorities and financial models are still catching up to what those market realities mean in the housing market today,” Iveson said.


Innovation has to happen to address productivity woes

He added modularization and embracing technological innovation would be vital pieces to both increasing housing stock and fixing Canada’s lagging productivity woes.

“We can’t see as a task force any way of ramping up production without adopting mechanization and automation to overcome the labour challenge, but also to increase quality control for resilience and efficiency and then create economies of scale through standardization, routinization and supply chain management to help bring costs back down so you can incorporate sustainability and resiliency features at no net cost because you’ve found efficiencies elsewhere through automation and taking weather out of the equation,” Iveson said.

He said other countries such as Sweden already work in this manner, “we just need to create the conditions for investment in that manufacturing capacity to come in.

“Not only would that be very helpful to housing and aligned with our climate objectives, but it would (also) be massively helpful for the productivity challenges in this country. It’s kind of a no-brainer from our perspective. A lot of our recommendations stress what all orders of government could do to create favourable conditions to unlock more factory-built housing in this country,” Iveson said.

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