Ottawa City Council Delays Implementing New Green Building Standards

The City Council voted on Wednesday to delay the implementation of its plan to enact rules for greener, high-performance buildings until further guidance is provided by the provincial government. The decision comes as the city aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet its climate targets. The proposed rules would have required new buildings to meet certain energy efficiency standards and utilize sustainable building materials.

However, some council members expressed concern over potential cost increases for developers and uncertainty around the implementation of the policy. The delay in implementation allows for further consultation with stakeholders and the provincial government to clarify the guidelines for the new policy.

The motion put forward by Barrhaven West Coun. David Hill aims to delay the adoption of the City of Ottawa’s own High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) until the provincial government provides more guidance on the matter, which is expected to happen in the summer. Hill compared his motion to the saying “measure twice, cut once,” indicating that the council should wait and ensure they have all the necessary information before making a decision. The HPDS rules are aimed at promoting greener and more energy-efficient buildings in the city.

The High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) is a policy that would gradually be introduced over seven years to mandate builders to comply with new energy efficiency standards and enforce zoning requirements for features such as electrical vehicle parking. Some councillors believe that these standards are necessary as the city grapples with the climate emergency it declared in 2019.

The proposed policy aims to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by requiring builders to use more eco-friendly materials and promote energy efficiency. However, due to uncertainty regarding the province’s rules, the City Council voted to defer implementing the HPDS until it receives further guidance from the provincial government.

Barrhaven West Coun. David Hill expressed concerns about the potential cost of implementing the High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) in the city. The new standards would require builders to adhere to higher energy efficiency standards and comply with zoning requirements for features such as electrical vehicle parking.

Hill argued that the added costs of implementing these standards could be as much as $10,000 per new house, which would hurt the city’s efforts to build more affordable housing. He added that many new buildings are already becoming more energy efficient without the need for municipal rules. However, proponents of the HPDS argue that these standards are necessary to address the climate emergency that the city declared in 2019.

Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard disagrees with Barrhaven West Coun. David Hill’s motion to defer adopting the city’s own High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) until the province clarifies its rules. Menard believes that delaying the HPDS will cost people more in the long run. The policy has been developed over three years and is supported by the public. Menard argues that it makes more sense for builders to meet new standards for energy efficiency and impose zoning requirements upfront rather than doing expensive retrofits later. He adds that it is a saving for residents.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Sean Devine opposed the motion to defer the adoption of the city’s own High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) and argued that other municipalities have already implemented similar green standards. He added that Ottawa has the opportunity to be a leader in this area and should not fall behind other cities, pointing out that Toronto has had similar standards in place since 2008. By delaying the implementation of the HPDS, Devine believes that the city will miss out on the environmental and economic benefits that come with more energy-efficient buildings.

There are several environmental and economic benefits that come with more energy-efficient buildings:

  1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Buildings are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from the use of energy for heating, cooling, and lighting. More energy-efficient buildings can significantly reduce these emissions and help mitigate climate change.
  2. Lower energy bills: Energy-efficient buildings use less energy for heating, cooling, and lighting, resulting in lower energy bills for occupants.
  3. Improved air quality: Energy-efficient buildings often have better ventilation systems that can improve indoor air quality by reducing the presence of pollutants and allergens.
  4. Job creation: Building and retrofitting energy-efficient buildings can create jobs in the construction industry, as well as in other sectors such as manufacturing and engineering.
  5. Increased property values: Energy-efficient buildings are often more attractive to buyers and can command higher prices than less efficient buildings.
  6. Reduced reliance on fossil fuels: By using less energy, energy-efficient buildings reduce the demand for fossil fuels and promote the use of renewable energy sources.

The debate between adopting High Performance Development Standards and addressing the housing crisis was described as a “battle of the emergencies” by Coun. Tim Tierney. While some councillors argued that the HPDS would provide environmental benefits and long-term savings, others expressed concerns about its potential impact on housing affordability. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe supported deferring a decision until more guidance is received from the provincial government, as Ontario‚Äôs Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, had urged. Ultimately, a motion to defer the decision was carried by a 14-10 vote.

The decision to defer the adoption of the High Performance Development Standards (HPDS) was made to wait for more guidance from the provincial government. Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, had urged Ottawa to hold off on the decision until the province provides more clarity on its rules, which is expected to happen in the summer of 2023. The delay was supported by some councillors who expressed concerns about the potential cost increase for builders and homebuyers. However, supporters of the HPDS argue that delaying the adoption of these standards will cost people more in the long run and that the policy has been developed over three years and is overwhelmingly supported by the public.

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the organization responsible for developing the National Model Construction Codes, which include the National Building Code, National Plumbing Code, and National Fire Code. These codes set the standards for building design and construction in Canada and provide the basis for the development of provincial and territorial building codes. The NRC also provides guidance on energy-efficient building design and construction through its Sustainable Buildings and Communities program.

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