Embodied Emissions Guide
Understanding the difference between operational and embodied emissions is crucial when thinking about GHG reductions for buildings.
Embodied Emissions + Operational Emissions = Total Carbon footprint of a building
Operational emissions are the emissions released from the ongoing operation of the building. Sources will include heating and cooling, ventilation, lighting, and other electronic appliances.
Embodied Emissions (also called Embodied Carbon) are the emissions released from the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation and decommissioning of building materials.
The Province of British Columbia developed the BC Energy Step Code and made it available to local governments to use as a consistent set of energy performance standards. Local Governments can choose to require higher energy performance prior to the Energy Step Code being rolled into the BC Building Code over time, leading up to the Provincial target of net-zero energy-ready new construction by 2032.
While the BC Energy Step Code is a great tool for improving overall building energy performance, the biggest influence on operational emissions is the heating fuel source. Local governments are addressing this shortcoming by implementing the regulation in tandem with low-carbon energy system pathways that encourage the use of efficient, low-carbon electric heating through the use of heat pumps.
As we build more energy-efficient buildings with low-carbon fuels, embodied emissions become a larger portion of the total environmental footprint of buildings.
At the Federal level, the low-carbon assets through life cycle assessment (LCA) initiative supports the transition to a low-carbon economy through green procurement which means priority will be given to low-carbon building materials. An Emissions-based building code is being considered for the next NBCC update in 2024, which will accelerate whole life cycle thinking.
At the Provincial level, a research is underway to quantify the Embodied Emissions of the built environment in BC and then model some reduction pathways over the next 10-15 years. This work will help local governments set Embodied Emissions reductions targets.
One of the first Embodied Emissions policies in North America, the City of Vancouver’s Green Building Policy introduces requirements to report embodied emissions associated with the construction of a building via a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA2). An incentive program similar to the Near Zero initiative will take place in 2022 to encourage the construction of low Embodied Emissions homes in the City of Vancouver.
Many BC municipalities are following suit.
- The City of Nelson has published resources on low-carbon building materials as a part of their low-carbon homes pilot
- The District of North Vancouver is exploring policies, tools and incentives for reducing Embodied Emissions in New Construction
- The City of Richmond has done a research on the effect of Operational and Embodied Emissions for Step Code homes
- UBC is developing policies and guidelines to reduce the Embodied Emissions of materials
- Metro Vancouver and the Resort Municipality of Whistler have set targets to reduce Embodied Emissions by 40% by 2030
- The City of Langford is the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt a low-carbon concrete policy
An inefficient building can be renovated and improved to reduce future operational emissions, but the clock cannot be turned back on embodied emissions.
We have run some preliminary numbers using the District of Squamish Community Climate Action Plan as an example. The building stock in Squamish in 2017 represented 29% of the total community emissions.
With 83% of buildings built before 2016 (so before the implementation of the BC Energy Step Code), and 56% of them using NG as the main fuel source, Embodied Emissions represent around 1/3 of the total emissions of a building over a period of 60 years.
There are some real climate risks, but also some real opportunities. With most embodied emissions occurring before occupancy, improved practices around embodied emissions management can spare a lot of damage upfront.
That is why it is crucial to start addressing embodied emissions now, even if imperfectly.
The Community Energy Association is working with The District of Squamish, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Squamish Nation to create an Embodied Emissions Guide for BC Municipalities. This guide will be a valuable resource for local governments to increase awareness, inform decisions and collaborate toward reducing embodied carbon emissions.
Squamish, Whistler and Squamish Nation will serve as case study communities for the guide. The focus is on buildings, particularly Part 9/Part 3 construction.
This project aims to guide communities in making quick and impactful decisions that will help them meet their GHG emission reductions targets while promoting energy efficiency in the built environment.
Questions that we will attempt to answer include:
- Are energy efficient buildings saving money and emissions when we include embodied emissions and assess the full makeup of a building?
- How can local governments and indigenous communities influence construction and deconstruction to not only save on operational emissions but all emissions?
The development of the proposed Embodied Carbon Guide is divided into three phases over a 2-year timeframe. The three phases of the Project are as follows:
Research and modelling will be conducted to build an understanding of embodied carbon emissions for communities in BC based on existing and projected buildings archetypes. We will be looking at different options for lifecycle carbon, energy, and cost implications for mid steps (1-3) and upper steps (4-5) of the BC Energy Step Code. The modelling will guide the development of reduction pathways for smaller communities. Detailed analysis in the three case study communities will occur. It is anticipated that the embodied carbon inventories for the communities will be somewhat similar, but that there will be more embodied emissions related to single-family homes in Squamish, for larger buildings in Whistler and for specific major projects in Squamish Nation.
The impact of each stage of construction will be quantified, (material supply, manufacturing, construction, use, end of life, and reuse recovery or disposal). The intent is to go beyond traditional ‘cradle to gate’ life cycle analyses (LCAs) toward more holistic ‘cradle to grave’ LCAs. This will better inform practices, and also has important implications for communities related to procurement, waste management, material diversion and circular economies.
We will identify, evaluate and develop actions that local governments can take to reduce Embodied Emissions. These actions can be categorized into four main areas, each using different levers and involving different stakeholders:
- Policy and regulation
- Removing barriers and providing incentives for low carbon materials
- Capacity building to facilitate industry transformation
- Complementary strategies and advocacy to higher levels of government
The impact of each action will be modelled based on the data developed in Phase 1 before developing a final implementation roadmap. Opportunities for collaboration will be identified to enable economies of scale, market opportunities and the sharing of best practices.
The creation of a detailed guide and implementation roadmap for all BC governments. Partnerships with industry and other communities will be fundamental to this project to share learnings, data, and policy to maximize the impact of the developed implementation guidebook. The Guide will be written so that ALL communities can quickly reference it, gain some capacity and begin to take action. This includes well-resourced communities that have time and money to dedicate toward the topic, and communities with limited capacity. The Guidebook will include:
- Specific resource materials on certain materials (e.g., wood and concrete).
- Simple estimation methodologies and inventory tools for communities to use.
- Materials to build awareness, advertise events and promote action on this topic.
- Specific resources for planners, waste management specialists, building departments, realtors and developers and other stakeholder groups.
- A detailed list of experts, resources, and case studies.
- Discussion on how local governments can enable a broader market transformation toward and away from certain practices and materials.
- Embodied emissions are now emissions, while operational emissions are spread over the life of the building. Poor embodied emissions choices can easily negate all operational emissions reductions that could be achieved by 2030.
- BC communities are rapidly growing and are facing large development proposals.
- Municipal governments have authority to influence new constructions and thereby life cycle building emissions.
- There are viable ways to significantly reduce embodied emissions, including technologies that are net carbon negative. Embodied Emissions can be a good news story.
- There are important waste reduction and waste emissions implications related to embodied carbon, and important associated local social and economic benefits.
For more information on Embodied Emissions, please contact our Project Lead, Elisabeth Baudinaud at: email@example.com
Kelowna EV and Home Retrofit Focus Groups
Over the past year, in response to COVID-19 restrictions, CEA has transitioned our signature, in-person workshops to an interactive, online engagement program and hosted over 20 events in eight BC communities of various sizes.
By providing an event host, breakout group facilitators, technical support, and an agenda of creative activities, CEA can confidently organize, facilitate and synthesize virtual events for groups of any size.
We planned and facilitated a series of six focus groups for the City of Kelowna to support draft strategies for electric vehicle support and home energy retrofits. Positive feedback from participants and the client, facilitated discussions and detailed event summaries, and engagement all provided Kelowna with insightful public input to compliment the online community as well.
"CEA did a great job facilitating a virtual focus group I attended recently - one of the most interesting group discussions that I’ve participated in! The whole exercise was really well done with excellent conversations, interactive breakouts and information shared by the right people….. Well done!"
Carol Suhan, Manager, Conservation & Energy Management, FortisBC
Vernon Climate Action Plan
In 2020, CEA collaborated with All One Sky Foundation and FlipSide Sustainability, to support the City of Vernon to create their Climate Action Plan.
In 2020 CEA collaborated with All One Sky Foundation and FlipSide Sustainability, to support the City of Vernon to create their Climate Action Plan. This is currently undergoing additional public engagement prior to likely adoption in 2021.
It's one of the first Plans in B.C. to combine mitigation and adaptation actions, taking the opportunity to integrate these into feasible low-carbon resilience strategies. The Plan is unique in its final design, in that it is written for the public, and specifically identifies the responsibilities of individuals and businesses and other community partners to successfully implement the Plan.
The Plan asks every person and every organization in Vernon to play their part by committing to at least one action per year.
Climate Action Game-Changer
Introducing the Game-Changer Grant - a CEA initiative to support communities in BC, AB and YT advance game-changing climate policies/regulations, programs, or infrastructure.
Game-Changer Grant Recipients
The City of Rossland
Welcome to the City of Rossland who, with support from CEA staff, will be developing a Home Energy Leadership Program (HELP) with an initial goal of supporting 100 home-owners to reduce household energy use en route to implementing 100% renewable energy.
Read the full press release here, and we look forward to posting more as we begin to design the project with City staff and officials.
Stay tuned for more recipient announcements!
About the Game-Changer Program
It’s going to take game-changing innovation to meet local 2030 emissions reduction targets. CEA is ready to change the game.
As a non-profit consultant, we are committed to transforming all proceeds from our work into advancing solutions for community climate action. And now is the time for us to support ambitious communities to implement game-changing climate action innovations. That's why we have developed the CEA Game-Changer Grant. This grant allows us to invest what we’ve saved over the last decade to fund cutting edge actions that utilities, Province, FCM, and others are not set up to fund.
This is the decade of climate action - a critical time to accelerate implementation of proven solutions while testing actions that push the boundaries of local government climate action to create deep emissions reductions.
To learn more about the Game-Changer Grant and how to submit an Expression of Interest, read the full details here. We encourage local governments and First Nations communities to respond. We understand that the timing associated with this offer won’t work for everyone. CEA is also exploring how we can provide longer-term relationship-based support in the future. Read the full details here.
For more information, register for the upcoming Game-Changer Webinar on May 4, 2021 at 10:00 am Pacific / 11:00 am Mountain. During the webinar, there will be a Q&A session for details on the grant and EOI submission.
The Game-Changer Grant is just one "Decade of Climate Action" pathway. We are ready to support local governments every step of the way by offering three pathways of community climate action implementation support. This allows us to take current needs and local context into account, ensuring all communities can implement proven solutions for significant emissions reductions and ultimately meet 2030 targets. The 3 pathways are:
Which pathway is right for you?
Local governments can choose to participate in just one pathway, or maybe have capacity and motivation to apply to all three! Stay tuned for more details about Peer Networks and Big Moves Implementation, or sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Regional Visions for Electric Mobility
The BC Climate Leaders Playbook identifies seven “big moves” communities can take to reach their 2030 and 2050 emissions reductions goals. Electrifying passenger and utility vehicles is a critical component of an overarching strategy to build a complete zero-emission transportation system that connects communities and regions.
The good news is we know what we needs to be done. What can be unclear is specifically how unique communities and regions can get there. At CEA we are experts in understanding the big vision while leveraging the context and opportunity of a region or community. In this way, climate solutions are pragmatic and ultimately addressing GHG emissions while building resilience and co-benefits for residents.
We are grateful to BC Hydro for supporting the idea of co-creating solutions to achieve a shared vision of regional e-mobility ecosystems. In 2019 we piloted the first e-mobility visioning session with BC Hydro and RDEK support. The outcome was nine innovative pilot projects that were funding-ready. A few of the projects designed during that 2-day session are now either funded (like the mobile battery unit!) or in proposal.
After the success of this initial pilot in the East Kootenay, we were again supported by BC Hydro to adapt the workshop template to new regions. In 2021, after making adjustments to create an engaging and compelling online experience, our team collaborated with stakeholders on Vancouver Island and in the Central/North regions.
In each respective workshop, we adapted the presentations to provide participants with a glimpse at technology that was relevant to their context but otherwise used a common format and shared outcomes:
- Develop a shared vision for how the region is benefiting from the transition to electric mobility in 2040.
- Define 3-5 pilot project concepts so they are ready for scoping and work planning.
The workshop was designed on the foundational understanding that in order for solutions to provide maximum benefits and impact, they need to reflect a diversity of perspectives and expertise. For that reason, the participants in each workshop represented a variety of organizations. Furthermore, on a regional scale, collaboration is critical; rural communities are linked economically andsocially so it makes sense to create solutions that leverage investments and resources.
We wanted to capture the creative contributions and energy participants brought to the sessions. Recording and sharing the ideas and visions of participants puts the pilot projects into context. We worked with artists at Drawing Change to create a graphic record the sessions. This preserved the co-created vision and the hopes and dreams participants had for future of e-mobility innovation.
Where are we now? Where are we going? How do we get there?
Answering "where are we now?"
When communities start exploring what is possible in the future for a fully integrated e-mobility network, the opportunities are endless. The e-mobility ecosystem includes elements of the following, all of which may make up the future landscape of our communities:
- Electric vehicles – light, medium and heavy duty
- Electric recreation – e-bikes/dirt bikes/snowmobiles/all-terrain vehicles/boats
- Smart grid/battery/on-site renewables
- Charging: at home, public level 2 and public fast charging
- Emerging technologies – autonomous vehicles, battery storage, induction charging, etc.
To ensure all participants were aware of recent innovations in the e-mobility ecosystem, we coordinated presentations from industry leaders in each respective region. Below is the graphic summary of the presentations for each region (click to enlarge in a new tab). By anchoring the workshop in understanding current trends, innovations and opportunities, participants could then imagine how their region and communities could evolve.
Answering "where are we going?"
In each workshop, participants created a shared vision of how their regions and communities are prepared for and benefiting from the transition to electric mobility. In order to synthesize ideas, participants were tasked to imagine newspaper headlines that articulate the 2040 future state.
Vancouver Island participants envisioned a future with 3 key themes:
Connected communities/ integrated transportation
"10th Year Celebration for Vancouver Island's Electric Train, with final station unveiled in Port Hardy."
"The Island and even the gulf islands are a fully connected with a transportation network."
"New Study Shows: Everyone Has Access to Car but Doesn't Need It."
"Cycle touring from East Coast through Sunshine coast now the most traveled route in BC and it's zero emissions!"
"Vancouver Island Transportation Authority (VITA) celebrates 25th anniversary."
"Game changer: Electric rail eliminates emissions and allows people to move up and down the Island without having to own a car."
"Last gas station on Vancouver Island is converted to an electric mobility hub."
"Every community on Vancouver Island has EV, Hydrogen, or low carbon infrastructure to connect residents and tourists alike."
"Vancouver Island no Longer Has 'Charging Deserts'."
"Vancouver Island the first jurisdiction to reach ZEV mandate targets."
"Whether by air or by sea people visiting the Island can make every trip via electrification."
"Because VI has shifted to electric transportation biodiversity is regenerating."
"Vancouver Island achieves zero grid power usage for first time since Power Resilience Initiative Kicked Off."
"100% of travel on Vancouver Island now powered by renewable energy."
"VI eliminates the need to import fossil fuels for transportation sector."
Central/North participants envisioned a future with 3 key themes:
"1/4 reduction in vehicles on the roads in Kamloops because of improved mobility infrastructure (bikes, scooters, etc.)."
"The last local government fleet vehicle is electrified."
"Provincial and Private Campground Association fully bans diesel generator."
"No new parking spaces are created as people are eliminating car ownership."
"The Gold Rush Trail expansion is electrified into a multi-use recreational trail across the region."
"Central and Northern BC recognized for top 5 bucket list, sustainable, decarbonized, must see destinations in international tourism magazine."
"Electric touring itinerary supports fully integrated route - CanaDream + PE Partnership Celebrates 10 years."
"Hwy 97/16 is rated top recreation route for all e-ventures."
Diverse travel options
"Accessible rail commuting across hwy 16 is a safe and cost effective transportation option."
"Final section of Induction Charging completed on Highway 97."
"All main streets in the region are pedestrian only and primarily access by electric micro mobility."
Answering "how do we get there?"
After thinking about the unique characteristics of their region and defining specific strengths or opportunities, stakeholders moved to articulating prototype ideas.
Vancouver Island stakeholders talked about current momentum and rate of adoption of EVs on the island as well as a history of regional collaboration and current congestion. These characteristics are just a few reasons noted as unique opportunities that can be leveraged when designing prototype projects.
Central/North BC stakeholders noted the vast wilderness with existing assets like campgrounds and anchor communities. The region has unique opportunity to leverage connectivity and wild, natural spaces to build zero emission tourism destinations/experiences.
While stakeholders in each session envisioned several potential prototypes, in the end the following were voted as presenting the biggest opportunity:
Vancouver Island Priority Projects:
Central/North Priority Projects:
We hope you can use these images to accelerate innovation on e-mobility! Please credit Community Energy Association with a link to this post if you do use them - thank you!
BC First Nation and Remote Community Energy Network
CEA worked with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR) to host a workshop with key agencies that provide support and funding for Indigenous communities working on energy and climate action.
This multi-agency meeting included representatives from programs supporting action across the spectrum of clean energy – planning and implementation, training and capacity building, housing support, energy efficiency and generation.
CEA facilitated a full day agenda with discussions on collaborative funding and aligned program offers, supported by graphic facilitation and productive break-out sessions. Co-creating a 10-year vision set the stage for future collaboration on 36 funding offers from over 30 organizations.
Charge North EV Charging Network
Charge North is developing a reliable and robust electric vehicle (EV) station network, including both DCFC stations (approximately 30-40 minutes to charge vehicle) and Level 2 stations (approximately 4 hours to charge vehicle). DCFCs allow EVs to travel long distances - they are key to getting EV drivers into the region. Levels 2s can direct how and where visitors spend their time and money while in your community. They provide important back up to DCFC stations and ensure all types of EVs have access to public charging.
Charge North is made possible by extensive collaboration between over 40 local governments and the Community Energy Association (CEA) as project facilitator. General project oversight is provided by an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from each of the six regional districts and Northern BC Tourism Association.
Community Energy Association Role
CEA Roles and Responsibilities:
- Facilitate collaboration between 43 local governments
- Project management, including sourcing funding
- Public education and outreach
- Media relations
- Car dealership engagement
Charge North Advisory Committee
AC Roles and Responsibilities:
- Represent community level interests and act as liaison for the communities
- Communicate information to Boards and members
- Review and provide input on project collateral/public materials
- Advise on project direction and decisions
- Connect CEA with relevant stakeholders, including relevant Indigenous communities
- Bring forward project concerns and opportunities
- Provide support in securing capital for future EV station deployment
- North Coast Regional District
- Kitimat-Stikine Regional District
- Regional District of Bulkley Nechako
- Regional District of Fraser-Fort George
- Cariboo Regional District
- Thompson-Nicole Regional District
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- BC Hydro
- BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
- Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT)
Peaks to Prairies EV Charging Network
The Peaks To Prairies EV Charging Network facilitates travel to and within the beautiful region of Southern Alberta with fast charging and Level 2 stations from Canmore to Medicine Hat, south to Waterton and to the Crowsnest Pass... with many stops along the way!
The rural and dispersed nature of Southern Alberta communities demands solutions that are innovative, collaborative and reflective of the local challenges and opportunities.
This is why, in 2016, regional economic development organizations, Southgrow Regional Initiative and Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance, approached CEA to discuss the opportunity of developing an EV charging network in their region, similar to Accelerate Kootenays. With strategic siting and regional collaboration, such a network could bolster local economies, connect Southern Alberta to surrounding jurisdictions and highlight the growing renewable energy sector in the region. The City of Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, as well as Medicine Hat College joined the collaboration to form the Peaks to Prairies partnership.
CEA facilitated the project from ideation through to project managing the installations on behalf of the advisory committee. In addition to sourcing and ultimately successfully securing funding to create the network, our staff, led by Project Manager, Megan Lohmann, also facilitated the RFP process to find an owner/operator partner and managed contracting.
Ucluelet 100% Renewable Energy Plan
In 2019, CEA collaborated with the District of Ucluelet to create their Climate Action Plan, which was adopted that same year. Titled "Clean Energy for the Safe Harbour", the plan set ambitious 2050 targets of 100% Renewable Energy and 80% reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. It includes an inventory of community emissions, goals to achieve the targets, and strategies to achieve those goals and ultimately allowed them to be awarded FCM Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Milestone 4 and Milestone 2 for action community and corporate emissions, respectively.
The full document can be found here: https://ucluelet.ca/images/Clean_Energy_for_the_Safe_Harbour_March_29.pdf
Closing the Loop
Local governments making infrastructure plans that recover energy and resources from waste can use this resource to access a multitude of information including technology, case studies and funding support. This guide was compiled by CEA with the generous support of the Province of B.C. - Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and our team is grateful to the project advisory committee who guided the direction of the project and provided helpful review and suggestions.
“Closing the Loop” is a guide about capturing value from local government infrastructure by recovering energy and other resources from waste.
This guide builds from past work related to “Integrated Resource Recovery” (IRR), including:
- Resources from Waste: Integrated Resource Management Study (2008)
- Resources from Waste: A Guide to Integrated Resource Recovery (IRR) (2009)
- Integrated Resource Recovery Inventory (2010)
In the ten years since the original study, many local governments have demonstrated that IRR technologies can use solid and liquid waste to create energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water, and recover nutrients, while saving money and potentially generating revenue.
“Closing the Loop” places IRR into a broader approach we are calling “regenerative infrastructure”. The approach, and its name, is inspired by the concept of regenerative design, which mimics nature’s processes. In nature, there is no waste, as all resources cycle through closed loop systems and serve a purpose.
There are 4 main sections in the resource:
*The foundation of much of the content in the Tools and Technologies section is from the original Integrated Resource Recovery (IRR) Guide, Resources from Waste (2009), authored by Stephen Salter and the Province of B.C.