Dylan Heerema: Future bright for green homes and buildings in B.C.

Here in B.C., green buildings are quickly moving from niche to norm. All across the province, Passive House apartment buildings, LEED Platinum-certified office space, and even green development plans for entire neighbourhoods are demonstrating the market demand for high-performance buildings. The green-building industry is now estimated to employ 31,700 people in B.C.

We’ve been tracking the growth in green-building construction. First released in 2015, the Pembina Institute’s B.C. Green Buildings Map has just been updated with all-new data for the past two years. The results show that the green-building sector continues to be an important employer and source of economic activity in B.C. Let’s take a deeper look at the numbers.

A number of larger green buildings have been completed in the past two years and several are currently under construction. These include commercial projects such as Metro Vancouver’s Annacis Research Centre in Delta and Vancity credit union’s Mount Tolmie community branch in Victoria, both certified to LEED Platinum. Ground-breaking projects include The Heights in Vancouver and the Dik Tiy Independent Living Facility in Smithers—multi-unit residential buildings that will be certified under the rigorous Passive House standard.

There has been a 38-percent increase in investment in larger green buildings, up from an estimated $10.6 billion in 2014 to more than $14.5 billion in 2016. Jobwise, while there were about 7,000 people working on green-building projects in 2014, there were 4,000 more (11,000) in 2016.

The green-home market has also grown over the past two years. We consider “green homes” to include houses that are certified by Natural Resources Canada as being better than B.C. Building Code, Energy Star, or R-2000, and those that meet Passive House, Living Building, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or Built Green standards. This brings the total cumulative number of green homes we’ve been able to represent on the map from 18,200 to 18,700. The total number of jobs in green-home construction remained steady at about 6,000.

As the B.C. Energy Step Code launches, we expect the growth in green-home and green-building construction to accelerate even further in the next few years. This is necessary if we are to meet our goal of having all new buildings be “net zero energy ready” by 2032.