With the newest Version 4 implementation of Toronto Green Building Standards (TGS) right around the corner (coming into effect May 1, 2022), sustainability is top-of-mind for Toronto building developers and engineers. The good news is that Toronto is one step closer to reaching its 2030 goal of zero-emission buildings and its 2050 goal of city-wide greenhouse gas reduction. However, it also means increased pressures and stricter guidelines for Toronto builders planning new developments.
The Version 4 of the TGS introduces advanced requirements to meet the mandatory Tier 1 qualifications, meaning builders in Toronto have to adapt… or risk getting left behind. It’s clear that the trend towards stringent sustainability guidelines will continue — a net-zero future is a central goal to all levels of Canadian government.
The reality is that with Toronto's trajectory of rapid expansion, stricter guidelines become a necessity to reign in environmental impacts. According to The Atmospheric Fund, "56 percent of Toronto’s emissions are from buildings, including residential, commercial, industry, and institutional buildings." It's no wonder that the city is attempting to circumvent potential emissions by requiring new buildings to hit near net-zero by 2030. In fact, starting this year, all new City-owned buildings will be required to achieve net-zero emissions.
As a result, many builders are looking to on-site renewable energy and Solar as a means to offset emissions, reduce energy use intensity, and meet and exceed the requirements laid out by Green Building Standards across the province.
Solar opens many pathways for developers to meet the mandatory Tiers of TGS Version 4, and yield many additional benefits to buildings in the long run. If you’re curious about the role of on-site Solar PV in attaining Toronto Green Standards, then read onward.
Changes to Toronto Green Standard Version 4
Compared to Version 3 of the TGS, the Version 4 is now requiring mid to high rise residential and commercial buildings to cut annual greenhouse gasses a further 25 percent, and energy use intensity by 28 percent. While these objectives are currently voluntary, they will become mandatory under Version 4.
In addition to advanced requirements for building energy intensity and GHG reduction, TGS Version 4 introduces tracking of embodied emissions in building materials used in construction. Some key changes include:
- Zero Emissions Buildings: The GHGI (kgC02e/m2/yr) emissions intensity requirements have increased at each Tier compared to Version 3. The previous Tier 2 voluntary goals have now become required for Tier 1 (see chart below).
- Embodied Carbon: To achieve Tier 2 and 3 certification, new criteria has been implemented requiring builders to conduct a materials emissions assessment of the upfront embodied carbon of structural and envelope components. In addition, Tier 2 projects must calculate the embodied carbon and the carbon sequestration within landscape designs.
- Electric Vehicle Infrastructure: Current requirements have been increased to 25% in Tier 1 and 100% EV Ready in Tier 2 for large Part 3 Buildings.
- Water and Ecology: Goals to reduce stormwater runoff and potable water consumption, reduce urban heat island impact, increase tree canopy, additional green roof coverage, and enhance biodiversity.
Additionally, builders are required to use whole-building energy modelling to demonstrate an annual greenhouse gas intensity (GHGI) that meets the performance limits provided in the table below:
Using a GHGI metric encourages the use of low carbon energy, like on-site solar, combined with energy efficient building envelopes and components. It accounts for the performance of different energy sources. Since renewables have no carbon intensity, they're weighted differently than natural gas that has a much greater carbon intensity.
Additionally, the Toronto Green Standards have made it clear their intent to include solar into the future of Toronto’s energy plan, with new requirements to make all new builds “solar-ready.” All new buildings that don't fall under the Green Roof Bylaw are required to utilize 100% of available roof space with one (or a combination) of the following:
- Green Roof;
- Solar PV; or
- Cool Roof
In other words, if you want to meet the mandatory Tier 1 requirements of the TGS, you can either put that money towards a green roof… OR you can invest in a solar PV system that will not only offset GHGI (possibly opening you up for higher Tiers and financial incentives), but also reduce your ongoing electricity costs for the roughly 30 year life of the system.
How can I use On-Site Solar PV to Meet (and exceed) the Toronto Green Standard Requirements?
One of the most effective methods to achieve Green Building Requirements and reach Net-Zero is to construct buildings all electric, with the electricity coming from renewable sources such as Solar.
With the stricter requirements for Greenhouse Gas Intensity (GHGI)—including the utilization of whole-building energy modelling, and tracking of embodied carbon—it is a much greater challenge to offset GHGI and balance the equation to achieve Net- or Near-Zero emissions.
This is why so many Toronto builders are seeing Solar as an increasingly attractive option, despite the up-front capital investment. The achievement of carbon targets can be reached, or at least supported, by connecting to either a low-carbon source of district energy (where available) or to renewable energy generated on-site via solar PV panels.
According to The Toronto Green Standard Version 4: “A net-zero emissions building is one that is highly energy-efficient and produces [renewable energy] on-site, or procures, carbon-free and or renewable energy in an amount sufficient to offset the annual carbon emissions associated with its operations or simply eliminates carbon emissions altogether.”
It should be noted that those projects pursuing Net Zero emissions are required to follow the guidelines outlined by the CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Standard or Passive House Standards acceptable pathways, and must demonstrate a GHGI target of 0.
Solar PV reduces a building’s dependence on the grid and can provide cost savings from avoided energy charges, while also bringing it closer to attaining certifications such as LEED, CaGBC's Zero Carbon Building Standards, and many more.
Have questions? Contact us.
Solar is a big Investment - Are there other options?
For those who are not interested in making the upfront capital investment, including owning, operating and managing a solar PV system, Solar-as-a-Service is an excellent choice.
Companies like Otter Clean Energy Partners offer cash-free clean energy with zero capital investment. Otter Clean Energy Partners designs, builds, owns and operates the PV system built on-site at your location. You pay a flat rate for the energy produced by the solar PV system, enabling you to utilize clean, renewable solar energy at your building risk-free.
With Solar-as-a-Service, you turn the up-front capital cost of installing solar into an off-balance sheet operating expense through the use of an OCEP Lease or Power Purchase Agreement. OCEP is a partnership between both the leading solar construction and the renewable energy consultants in Ontario, each with 10+ years experience.
To learn more, you can check out the Otter Clean Energy Partners website.
Toronto: Building a Green City
Since 2010, the Toronto Green Standard has outlined sustainable design and performance requirements for new private and city-owned developments and is a key element of Toronto's efforts to achieve zero-emission buildings by 2030 and meet 2050 city-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals.
TGS strives to push developers beyond the minimum standards of the Ontario Building Code, towards the zero-emissions targets as set out in TransformTO, and City Council's 2019 declaration of a climate emergency. This also aligns with Canada's Commitment to Zero Emissions by 2050.
Based on three tiers of increasingly sustainable performance, the goal of the Toronto Green Standard is to encourage and enable change to promote more sustainable development in the city. All Toronto developments must conform at least to Tier 1 standards, but builders who meet the requirements of higher tiers are eligible for an incentive under the City’s Toronto Green Standard Development Charge Refund Program (this link leads to Version 3 of the program).
Who else is implementing Green Building Standards?
Currently, in Ontario the City of Toronto and Town of Whitby have mandatory Green Building Standards that use a tiered system, with many other municipalities following suit. At this time, Brampton, Halton Hills, Markham, and Vaughan utilize a points-based approach to green building standards, offering developers a selection of compliance options. While these are not mandatory yet, after declaring climate emergencies, many Ontario municipalities are actively pursuing new or better Green Development Standards that follow the example of Toronto Green Standards.
Are you ready to go Solar?
While the updated requirements have proven to be a challenge for builders submitting new plans, many of our clients are leveraging on-site renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, as means to reduce their energy use intensity, offset carbon emissions, and (eventually) minimize operational costs when their building reaches completion.
Solar renewable energy systems are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and meet climate goals. Solar is a direct method to Toronto Green Standard certification while helping to offset grid-based electricity usage. If you are interested in installing a solar renewable energy system, contact us today for a free consultation.
Compass can help.
It all starts with a consultation. Compass makes renewable and clean energy a reality by providing expert and nuanced advice to decision makers. We can support your renewable project from conceptual design through to issue for construction drawings. We provide detailed feasibility analyses so you have a clear understanding on the economic benefits of going solar today. We’ll be your guide for all projects including Net Metering, Battery Storage and much more.
Compass has supported the development of over 1,000 MW of clean and renewable energy over the last five years. We're devoted to providing objective and nuanced advice on risks and rewards associated with renewable and clean energy installations. There's a reason that over 70% of our clients over the last three years have engaged with us on multiple assignments.