As originally published in the Lakefield Herald on January 17, 2020

by Terry McQuitty

For a small municipality the Township has taken great strides to lessen their carbon footprint. In October 2016 the township passed a resolution to support the Greater Peterborough Climate Action Plan. The goal of this action plan is reduce Community Sector greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent by 2031 from the 2011 baseline.

Chief Building Official (CBO) Brian Fawcett presented a report to council on how the building department can help the municipality reach their environmental goals. Fawcett explained the Action plan has two paths when it comes to the housing sector. One path is aimed at existing homes while the other path focuses on new builds.

Fawcett reminded council and the gallery that Douro-Dummer has been proactive in their goal of decreasing greenhouse gases. Fawcett mentioned a number of environmental programs already in place including the clear garbage bags, vehicle purchases and the replacement of HVAC systems on municipal properties.

Fawcett then focused on the building department and how they can best focus their efforts. Fawcett told council that reducing operating emissions on existing homes are being addressed by other programs. Residential energy efficiency programs have been offered through Peterborough Utilities, Hydro One, Enbridge, and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in the past that have targeted HVAC system upgrades, appliance retirement, building envelope retrofits, and efficient lighting. These programs have incentivized adoption of higher energy efficient practices.

Fawcett said that the building department would focus their efforts on new builds. There are two sources that are being tapped to reduce these emissions. Increased requirements on the provincial building code is one avenue. Municipalities can also play a role in reducing carbon output in new builds.

Fawcett proposed that the township focus our target on reducing the up front emissions of new construction through an education program coupled with financial incentives. Fawcett said that programs have been put in place by municipalities such as Pickering, Richmond Hill, Brampton and Vaughan and others. Sustainable development guidelines can offer a tool to achieve healthy, complete sustainable communities. These types of guidelines provide developers with a sustainability score based on a set of predefined metric that quantify the stainability performance of new development projects.

Fawcett had met with a local organization, Builders for Climate Change Action and Sustainable Peterborough in order to come up with a metric that will be able to rate the new builds for design and final construction.

Fawcett proposed that in order to encourage people to participate in the green program incentives should be available. Incentives would be part of this proposed program that would be of financial assistance to the ratepayer and would help the municipality reach their environmental goals.

Fawcett admitted that as a municipality you can’t force ratepayers to construct above the minimum building standards put forth by the province, so an incentive program along with education is the plan being put forward.

Fawcett told council that current conventional construction, meeting Building Code minimum standards, a building would produce around 250-415 kg/CO2e/m². A typical 200m² (2152ft²) house would produce between 50 to 83 tonnes of CO2e before it has ever been lived in. In addition, there are operating emissions as a result of burning of fuel for heating (oil/propane/natural gas or solid wood).

Using substitutions in the building process can drastically reduce greenhouse emissions. Fawcett said using these substitutions could reduce up front CO2 emissions to be closer to 50kg/CO2e/m², meaning a 200m2 dwelling would be 10 tonnes of CO2e, representing a reduction of 56.5 tonnes of CO2e per dwelling.

Some suggested substations are as follows:

• Changing Poured Concrete foundation walls to ICF

• Steel beams to Wood beams

• Spray in place foams to cellulose insulation • Fibreglass insulation to cellulose insulation

• Rigid foam to Fibreboard

• Steel framing to Wood framing

• Masonry veneer to wood siding (or vinyl) • Use of FSC certified wood flooring or recycled products

Fawcett said that these substitutions not only reduce the carbon footprint, but are often times less expensive to the consumer.

Fawcett proposed that the following financial incentives be implemented to support uptake of the program. Where the design and final evaluation of the building have been established to be an up front 50 kg/CO2e, the applicant would receive a 40 per cent rebate of their building permit fees. If net zero, or near net zero efficiency was achieved for the operation of the dwelling, then an 80 per cent rebate of the fee would apply.

This would require full electrification of energy consumption (as Ontario’s energy grid is continuing to move towards being fully carbon neutral). This in turn would require additional insulation as mandated by the Ontario Building Code, reducing/offsetting the costs electricity consumption.

The impact of this program would be, based on the earlier 85 per cent involvement assumption, would be a full or partial rebate for 25 new dwellings. For a 200m² dwelling, the building permit fee would be, based on 2020 proposed rates to be $2782.47. It can be further estimated that five of the 25 would partake in net zero requirements, while the remaining 20 would be meeting minimum requirements.

This would accordingly be $33,389.70 per year to run the program for a reduction up to 1400 tonnes of CO2e per year.

Fawcett gave the following to paint a picture of what the program could accomplish. As an example, a single tonne of CO2e is emitted by driving a semi fuel efficient car roughly 5400km. This is 8L/100km, with 2.31 kg/CO2e per L of fuel consumed, which would be 18.5kg/CO2e per 100km. The implementation of this program could be compared to an equivalent of 7.56 million km of driving eliminated, every year, or more tangibly, at an average of 20,000km driven per year, the removal of 378 cars from the road each year. This is just the impact of 25 houses, in a small municipality.

In order to fund the program Fawcett suggested the township apply for funding from FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) through the Green Municipal Fund Pilot Project. They will provide a minimum of a 100 per cent match, with the option of a 400 peer cent match for programs with a significant impact in municipalities less than 20,000 people.

At a 100 per cent match, we would be responsible for $16,694.85 of costs, and at a 400 per cent match the township would need $6,677.94 per year. This money would be allocated up front by the Building Department reserve fund, as there is sufficient money there to fund this program. The 20 per cent fund allocation required by the municipality can be paid directly by the building permit applicant, meaning that there is no cost for the municipality to partake in the program, besides Building Department staff time for implementation.

Deputy Mayor Karl Moher had this to say about the project “This initiative sounds real exciting for the reduction of the future carbon footprint in Douro-Dummer. “.

Shelagh Landsmann told the Herald

“I found Brian’s report on sustainability in new construction very intriguing. He demonstrated that one can approach a new plan with an open mind, view it from a different angle and come up with a very progressive idea. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will benefit everyone.”

Councillor Tom Watt ehcoed Landsmann’s comments and said “This program is a first for any municipality in Canada. We at Douro-Dummer are proud to be the leaders of such an exciting program”.

Deputy mayor Karl Moher had this to say about the program “This initiative sounds real exciting for the reduction of the future carbon footprint in Douro Dummer.

Councillor Heather Watson told the Herald “Climate Change is something that we are all conscious about and we need to look at ways to reduce our carbon footprint. This program has the potential to not only reduce greenhouse gases but it also will help encourage development in our municipality. I am hopeful that we will receive funding from FCM to launch this program.”