Cool Companies: Alberta's Clean Technologies 2011

Green Buildings

Excerpt from Cool Companies By Claudia Sammer


In Canada, operating our buildings—homes, commercial and institutional buildings—consumes about 30% of our energy. Since energy consumption is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), our buildings are also responsible for emitting about a third of the CO2 Canada produces into the air (NRCanada 2008).
If buildings are one third of the problem, then they should be one third of the solution. That solution is green buildings—buildings that are environmentally responsible and make efficient use of the resources (energy, water, waste, materials) they use throughout their life. They also have healthier indoor environments. 

To help people start thinking in terms of green buildings, the CaGBC (p.53) introduced the international LEED Green Building Rating System®  several years ago. LEED®, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a checklist of ways a building can be energy efficient, use sustainable materials, reduce construction waste, and reduce its carbon footprint. LEED is also a third-party rating system where buildings can achieve Silver, Gold or Platinum certification. Many Canadian cities have mandated that their institutional buildings such as hospitals, schools and community centres be built to LEED standards. Depending on what credits are being pursued, LEED can increase the capital cost of a project. For a LEED Silver institutional building this increase can range from 0 to 2%, but this premium is quickly recovered through reduced energy and operating costs. LEED can be applied to new as well as existing buildings.

LEED was created to transform the industry by making it more responsive to environmental and energy concerns. Next on the horizon are net zero energy buildings, which means a building generates as much energy as it consumes over a year. The first step in designing these high-performance buildings is to make them as energy efficient as possible so they consume an ultra low amount of energy. More than half of the energy used in a traditional building is space heating, especially in the harsh Canadian winters. Net zero energy buildings have super insulation, an air-tight building envelop to prevent leaks and passive solar heating and cooling (p.11). To offset the remaining energy used, they have an alternative energy source such as solar PV, solar thermal, wind or geothermal (pp.10-25).

The net zero energy building design also works for homes. While true net zero would be EnerGuide 100, an EnerGuide 86 envelope would already reduce the size of the alternative energy technology required. The number of net zero energy homes is increasing in Alberta as builders aim to make them at the same price as a house using traditional building methods.

We also have another opportunity to save energy and reduce our environmental impact in how we construct buildings. At the moment most houses are built using wood construction at the building site. As an insight, it takes the construction team about 500 trips to build one house, which adds up in GHG emissions. Instead, a new Lego-style thinking to home construction has emerged. Not only does it reduce energy and costs associated with building a house, but it also produces a more energy efficient house.

One new Lego-style house construction technology is called SIPs which are panels with foam insulation sandwiched between protective layers (Magwall p.52). In Alberta, a number of builders (Landmark below, Dr. Al-Hussein, p.53) are adopting another technique using industrialized lean manufacturing—build houses in a factory like we do cars. Also called prefab manufacturing, complete walls—with insulation, siding, electrical—and roofs and floors would be built in a factory ready to be connected like Lego on a building site. The biggest advantages of prefab manufacturing are quality control, precision in design and much less waste.
Working with Habitat for HumanityStantec and Lafarge are testing out building a net zero house in a pilot project (pictured) using precast panels made from an insulating foam core sandwiched by a concrete coating.

Alberta has a number of state-of-the-art green communities already built such as the Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks (p.11) and being built: Wind Walk by The Holmes Group outside of Calgary (p.29); Carbon Busters’ Willows project will be a zero carbon sustainable community in Leduc, just outside of Edmonton; Open Gate near Chestermere outside of Calgary (p.29); and the $1.8 billion Rampart’s Avenir project being built in St.Albert, outside of Edmonton, for 12,000 people which aims to be North America’s largest clean technology innovation community. 


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  • Landmark Group
  • Cadillac Coatings
  • Dynamic Air Shelters
  • ATI-Composites
  • Nemalux
  • Embedia Technologies
  • BP Composites
  • PIVOT Research
  • TTS / The BioComposite Group
  • Enershield Air Barriers
  • MagWall Building Systems


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Canada Green Building Council, Alberta Chapter (CaGBC)
The CaGBC is the voice of the green building industry in Alberta, accelerating the transformation to high performing, healthy green buildings, homes and communities. It offers LEED® and green building education as well as events like the Sustainable Building Symposium every May.
Contact:, Tanya Doran, Exec Dir, 780.669.3665

Net Zero Energy Home Coalition
More homebuilders are beginning to offer consumers homes that produce as much energy as they consume, or net zero energy homes. The Net Zero Energy Home Coalition is a national organization that helps homeowners and the many groups in the building industry understand the benefits, best practices and advances in net zero energy technology for residential homes. It is exploring a group buying program for net zero energy products and services to help builders achieve economies of scale. Contact:, Sonja Winkelmann, Executive Director, 403.370.3457

BIM Centre of Excellence
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology supporting 3D modelling of a building design. It increases productivity and construction efficiency. A new BIM Centre of Excellence is being established in Alberta. It will help accelerate the use and best practices of BIM to companies in Canada’s building industry.
Contact:, John Leurdyke, 403.297.6593 offers a free database of sustainable products and materials available in Alberta and across Canada, managed by EcoAmmo Sustainable Consulting.
Contact:, 780.466.7616