Net Zero, Low Carbon and the Toronto Green Standards

Guest Speaker: Michelle Xuereb, Director Of Innovation at BDP Quadrangle January 31, 2023

5 Key Takeaways:


  1. Toronto Green Standard v4.0-v4.3: The Importance of Timing


It’s time to level the playing field; Toronto’s goal to be net zero by 2030 is contingent upon the continued normalization of mandatory green building requirements across the board.


Toronto Green Standard’s multi-version plan is raising the bar for environmental standards and minimum building requirements. With financial implications always being major consideration, it was reassuring to discover that there is a 0.1% cost difference when moving between versions 1 and 3.


The multi-phase nature of this plan will make it easier to monitor as there are specific requirements every two years as we march to our 2023 goalpost. Toronto’s urban fabric will continue to shift as success metrics evolve and regulatory requirements increase.



  1. A Zero Emissions Building Framework: Toronto’s Performance Pathway to 2030


When we hear the term “green standards” for buildings we picture green roofs and garden walls. Sure, these additional features are pleasant, but the emphasis should actually be on thinking smarter about structural design and building materials throughout the development process.


Residential projects in Toronto are notoriously the slowest when it comes to the uptake of environmental standards, with the primary reason for this being equity-related concerns. One tactic that cities around the world have used to incentivize smarter development is establishing multi-unit residential high-performance precedents. Additional methods such as the optimization of lateral systems, reducing the number of parking levels underground and considering alternative structural systems are also powerful tools in reducing a building’s carbon footprint.



  1. CO2 Best Practice: Everything to Consider from Concept Design to Construction



The electrification of buildings plays a huge role in the reduction of negative environmental impacts. The continued shift away from fossil fuels in the heating and cooling of buildings is crucial to the health and well-being of Toronto, your Grandma Jo, and the world!


In the Toronto context, projects like Low Carbon Now are working to find ways the city can take action to reduce its carbon footprint in the immediate future. Low Carbon Now questions how Toronto is currently approaching green development on both a large and small scale. Building smarter requires us to be proactive now when it comes to electrification methods and best practices. Engaging stakeholders in the “why” and the “who” conversations will help to ensure the “how” of achieving a more sustainable and affordable future.


  1. Net Emissions = Embodied Carbon + Operational Carbon – Avoided Emotion. Let’s get it to zero:


The elephant in the room (or more fittingly, in the building) is embodied carbon. Embodied carbon is the combination of all GHG emissions associated with a new building, everything from the construction phase, maintenance, and end-of-life. There are currently no mandatory requirements surrounding embodied carbon in the City of Toronto. This is expected to change as the conversation surrounding its impact has been busted wide open in the last couple of years.


What we have learned is that the majority of a building’s embodied carbon impact is present in the beginning stages of development. When we break it down, the structure of any given building makes up roughly 75-85% of its embodied carbon. This means that the necessary structural modifications should be made at a project’s genesis for the most effective results. Toronto is working to make this happen is through its establishment of a regulatory embodied emission guide, and by setting CO2 emission caps to hold developers accountable. Setting caps for CO2 emissions is just the incentive we need to meet our 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2030 Toronto Green Standard targets.


  1. Exploring Innovative Design Pathways to hit Tier 3 on Every Project


Taking an additive approach to design is not the solution. Reframing how we see design best practices, finding innovative ways to alter existing systems, and always questioning “business as usual” assumptions is the way into the future.


The conversation has started, and it is time to get more creative about how we approach design and space. We can see the direction the market is moving and can anticipate an increase in intensity with regard to Torontos Green Standards.