August 25, 2004
Public Works’ head architect says construction must be in sync
Don’t get left behind by ‘green’movement
The construction industry has to be in sync with the move towards green sustainable construction and life cycle management by all levels of government, says the head architect at Public Works Canada.
“You need to know where your client base is heading,” said Bruce Lorimer, the keynote speaker at the recent Toronto Construction Association’s Members’ Day.
The focus of his talk was the ‘green’ initiatives currently in place for federal government construction and the advantages and business opportunities available to the design and construction industries.
Public Works and Government Services Canada, the federal government’s goods and services procurer, is implementing or considering a whole range of sustainable projects and initiatives, the audience was told.
But this shift isn’t restricted to the federal government. The provinces and territories are also considering adopting similar sustainable standards, as are many municipalities. As well, universities, museums and other institutions have, or are considering, green building construction, said Lorimer.
“We’re working with the provinces and territories, and organizations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Each of these groups are interested in sustainability.”
Another indicator is the growing popularity of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system in Canada and the rising number of LEED certified professionals, Lorimer said.
The federal department uses the term ‘real property’ to reinforce the principle that sustainable development applies to all real property, he explained.
“By all aspects I mean starting from the identification of a client’s needs, locating a site, engagement and briefing of consultants, tendering and contract award, construction, commissioning, operation through to recapitalization or de-construction.
“It involves owners, occupants, designers, builders, suppliers, operators and so on.”
Like federal governments around the world, the Canadian government has realized that there is a direct connection between large operating budgets and measures to improve the environment through sustainable activities.
Some of the driving forces behind that realization include the Earth Summit in 1992, Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the government’s ratification of Kyoto last year, said Lorimer.
The philosophy of sustainability is increasingly embedded in the day-to-day operations of the federal government, with Public Works Canada taking the lead role for environmental stewardship and sustainability, he pointed out.
It operates a “huge physical plant” that includes office buildings and a vast array of other facilities such as heating plants, laboratories, warehouses, bridges and dams.
“Taken together, the Government of Canada is one of the nation’s biggest energy consumers and therefore a large emitter of greenhouses gases.”
Several key priorities for Public Works Canada include reducing the use of natural resources, preservation and restoration of the environment and eliminating the use of toxic and/or hazardous materials.
Its role will also be shaped by an advisory panel on sustainability established earlier by Public Works Minister Stephen Owen.
The panel is comprised of representatives from the public and private sectors and academia.
Ideas being considered for the panel to examine include minimum standards for PWGSC buildings under the LEED Gold, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Green Leaf or equivalent programs, he said.
The department is currently developing a policy for sustainable buildings and is considering how evaluation tools such as LEED and BREEAM/Green Leaf can be utilized.
It would enable Public Works, Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence and other departments to adopt the same standards and the same clauses for selecting consultants and awarding contracts, he said.
The department is also collaborating with other governments on the development of green technical standards and building rating systems and is working with associations such as the Canadian Construction Association to ensure those standards are consistent.
“We must plan and develop methods to deal with resource and energy costs and the rust out of older facilities. We can not continue to defer maintenance and expect to maintain the value of our assets and meet Kyoto targets.”
A major priority for the department is a life-cycle management approach that considers the overall cost of maintaining property over its lifetime and not just the initial construction.
“Our biggest challenge is financial and approval,” said Lorimer, explaining that it has to prepare business cases justifying the need for projects rather than simply championing demonstration projects.
While new buildings can be used to showcase sustainable initiatives, Public Works Canada is responsible for more floor area in existing buildings. And as the cost of steel rises, the value of existing buildings can’t be underestimated, said Lorimer
“My guess is that this will make existing structures more valuable.”
Many of those buildings are heritage structures and that presents several challenges for the department, he added.
“Our goal is to ensure that our heritage buildings are as environmentally sustainable as they can be without losing their heritage value.”
Evaluation tools such as LEED have limitations when applied to heritage buildings because they don’t accommodate the diversity of building types and regional characteristics and don’t include social and cultural considerations, he said.
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