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Report from Making Net Zero Commercial Buildings a Reality

Construct Canada, Toronto

December 1, 2016
The OAA Headquarters, Toronto is aiming to become Net Zero Carbon


More than 60 people attended the Construct Canada session presented by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) on Thursday morning.

Following brief introductions, Sheena Sharp, Chair of the OAA Building Committee, began with the presentation of the OAA Headquarters Building as a Net Zero Carbon Case Study. Starting with the OAA and its role, Sharp took the audience through the details of the project.

“The OAA has a mandate to promote architecture, both the scientific aspects as well as the aesthetic,” explained Sharp. This project is focused on addressing climate change through the Association’s commitment to the 2030 Challenge as adopted in 2009.

The retrofit of existing building stock in Ontario is key to achieving the 2030 Challenge targets as well as those which have now been set by the Province of Ontario and Canada. There is much to be achieved in the next 14 years and the targets cannot be reached without addressing buildings which are already built and which will continue to be in use for decades to come.

The OAA Building Renew + Refresh project is moving ahead – the unique glass building on pillars isn’t an easy ‘net zero carbon’ sample, but the OAA believes it can be done. The project is being approached as a learning experience to present a path and lessons for other existing buildings across the country. The OAA is currently finalizing the design for the retrofit including interior plans to expand their office space and better align it to the current and future functions for the space.

“We are already in the process to meet the net zero carbon goal. We hope that by sharing our story (visit www.oaa.on.ca) throughout the next 18+ months we will educate and inspire others to address climate change through retrofitting buildings,” said Sharp.

Trevor Nightingale, Director, NRC, expanded the context of the presentation with an overview of case study buildings in Canada. While many of them have achieved significant energy savings, none have yet achieved Net zero energy. In comparison there are 160 buildings in the U.S. which have done so.

“The OAA Building would really be something, if we achieve Net Zero Carbon in zone 6”, exclaimed Nightingale.

Nightingale stressed the availability of “a basket of technologies are needed to get to where you need to go”. The NRC is part of the OAA  Design Team. They will assist with finding technology solutions and evaluating their performance throughout the project.  

A number of questions were taken from the floor reflecting the curiosity and positivity of the attendees toward the upcoming project currently slated to begin in 2017.