The Context

In order to appreciate what can be accomplished in the building industry, it is useful to first understand the state of resource use and greenhouse gas production in Canada and where buildings fit into this larger picture. Key findings of a report that compares Canada to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations in terms of a number of general indicators are presented below. Energy Consumption Canada ranks 27th out of 29 OECD nations for per capita energy use, at 6.19 tonnes of oil equivalent per capita. This is almost double the OECD average of 3.18 and five times the world average. Total energy consumption grew by 20.3% between 1980 and 1997. Energy Efficiency Canada ranks 28th out of 29 in terms of energy efficiency. We use 0.30 tonnes of oil equivalent to generate $1000US of GDP. This is almost double the OECD average. Canada is 33% less efficient than even the US. Greenhouse Gas Production Canada ranks 27th out of 29 nations for its production of CO2, the most dominant of the greenhouse gases. We produce 16.84 tonnes of CO2 per capita. This is 48% above the OECD average and four times the global average. In terms of total CO2 production, only four nations produce more: the US, Japan, Germany, UK. Water Consumption Canada ranks 28th out of 29 nations for its per capita water consumption, at 1600m3 per capita. This is 65% above the OECD average, and represents an overall increase of 25.7% since 1980. Overall increases within the OECD average 4.5%, although several nations actually decreased their overall water consumption, including the US, UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Building Industry So what do all these statistics have to do with buildings specifically? According to the ATHENA Sustainable Materials Institute as much as 40% of the raw materials and energy produced in the world are used in the building sector. Canada’s energy efficiency, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions records are therefore significantly affected by the building industry. In addition, 30% of newly-built or -renovated buildings suffer from “sick building syndrome, exposing occupants to stale or mold- and chemical-laden air. The Government of Canada’s Action Plan 2000 on Climate Change identifies buildings as a key sector for moving Canada toward meeting its Kyoto Protocol targets. It specifically targets the heating of buildings, which accounts for 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Furthermore, Canada’s building industry statistics are similar to the US, where commercial and residential buildings account for 65% of the nation’s total electricity consumption , 36% of the total primary energy used , 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions , 12% of potable water consumption , and the production of 136 Million tonnes of construction and demolition waste per day (approximately 2.8lbs/person/day) . It is clear that buildings have a significant impact on resource use. There are correspondingly significant- and in many cases, easy and inexpensive- gains that can be made in the design and operation of buildings that will not only improve their energy and resource efficiency, but also worker comfort and productivity, environmental impact, and even corporate image.
source: Primer Part 3c: Buildings See also XlnkS58F

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