Montreal Quebec Canada
November 22, 2023

A Manifesto for the Decarbonization of Buildings 

Ecosystem’s founder, Andre Rochette, shared his thoughts on the decarbonization Manifesto by Le conseil québécois des entreprises en efficacité énergétique (CQ3E) in an interview with Quebec based media outlet Constructo. The article, available here in French, also features CQ3E’s president, François Dussault.  Below is Ecosystem’s translation of the original article written by Roxanne Caron

How to achieve a complete energy transition in the building sector by 2050? Le conseil québécois des entreprises en efficacité énergétique (CQ3E), comprising 24 companies, proposes concrete actions to accomplish this. 

These actions are outlined in the Manifeste sur la décarbonation des bâtiments du Québec (PDF), published last August. The manifesto, which took nearly eight months to develop, was thoughtfully crafted by an editorial committee consisting of ten different industry stakeholders who are members of CQ3E: entrepreneurs, building managers, construction firms, engineering firms, electrical product suppliers, etc. “The common denominator of CQ3E is being a supplier’s association. Our clients are not part of the association. Instead, they represent our audience,” explains its president, François Dussault, who is also a strategic advisor in energy efficiency at Ambioner.  

Reduction of Consumption 

While commercial and institutional buildings account for nearly 10 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Quebec, achieving carbon neutrality in this sector by 2050 relies on three interdependent pillars: reducing consumption, strategic electrification, and managing power demand. Seventeen recommendations have been outlined for each of these pillars, targeting various specific audiences. There is a particular goal to draw the attention of the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy, as well as the Ministry of Environment, Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife, and Parks, urging their contribution to reducing electricity consumption. 

The CQ3E recommends, among other things, imposing maximum thresholds for energy intensity (kWh/m2) and maximum rates for greenhouse gas emissions per building. “Regarding regulations, we need to be much stricter about this. This recommendation would be a more coercive approach, involving legislation,” said the president of CQ3E. Reducing needs at the source could involve, among other things, recovering lost energy in buildings, optimizing operational schedules, or energy storage. It’s about seeking opportunities to better manage energy concerning the building before considering electrification. “We often talk about mechanical technologies because they are the most common solutions, but seriously considering improving the envelope of existing buildings should be more thoroughly contemplated,” adds Dussault. 

Revisiting Electrification 

This manifesto also concerns project stakeholders. To engage in strategic electrification, property owners must improve their understanding of energy. Therefore, it is recommended to develop the literacy and skills of real estate managers, contractors, construction professionals, and maintenance technicians regarding heat pump technologies and best practices for installation, operation, and maintenance. “Our gold in Quebec is electricity, and we’re wasting it by heating with electric baseboards. We should not do that when there are more efficient ways to heat and keep these resources for better use elsewhere,” asserts André Rochette, founder of Ecosystem, a company specializing in energy efficiency and a member of CQ3E. 

However, managing power demand is crucial to avoid creating peak problems on the grid. This involves, among other things, energy storage and the use of renewable natural gas (RNG). Increasing tariffs and financial support programs related to peak management and storage, all while considering the needs of various industry sectors, is a recommendation in the manifesto on which energy distributors such as Hydro-Québec and Énergir can act. “For them, we have recommendations regarding program improvements. We hope to encourage certain solutions over others and recommend ways to increase and multiply subsidies when the right technologies are used or when the three-pillar approach is adopted,’ explains Dussault. 

An Integrated Vision 

Accordingly, all recommendations aim to encourage integrated visions, both for existing buildings and new constructions. The more projects are carried out in an integrated manner, the more likely they are to achieve future performance objectives in building operation. Of course, many projects in the design-construction mode are already being implemented. “We are not suggesting that none of our recommendations are being applied now. We hope to highlight successes and remove barriers and poor practices,” emphasizes the council president. Among the 17 recommendations, many of them are already in progress or under discussion. However, CQ3E aims to be part of the conversation on carbon neutrality. “What we bring is the experience from the field,” he adds.  

A Common Will 

The 24 companies that signed the manifesto participated in several meetings to align their perspectives. However, from the start, there was already a certain convergence of ideas within the group. “Fundamentally, within CQ3E, everyone understands the issue of climate change and wants to do something about it,” says André Rochette. As a result, they rallied around a common vision and goals to achieve. Presenting a message with a united voice is undoubtedly the added value of this manifesto, according to François Dussault. “These are major players in the sector speaking together. It’s much more impactful than speaking individually.” The list of signatory companies includes Aedifica, Ainsworth, Akonovia, Ambioner, Bouthillette Parizeau, Ciet, C-Nergie, Dunsky, Econoler, Ecosystem, Energénia, Énergère, Enero Solutions, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Krome, Lemay, Master, Nordexco, Pomerleau, Siemens, Sofiac, Trane, and TST. 

Investing in Energy Rating 

Ten essential conditions have been identified to place the three pillars of energy efficiency at the heart of building decarbonization. Among these is the acceleration of implementing rating systems and the public disclosure of building performance and emissions. 

This system already exists in Europe and in the state of New York, where a label is prominently displayed on the building’s door, like restaurant hygiene ratings. “Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant rated as a D. In New York, they consider that nobody would want to lease offices in a building that is rated as a D,” emphasizes André Rochette. In Quebec, the aim would be to have a two-index rating system. The first index would concern energy intensity, meaning energy consumption per square meter. The second would address greenhouse gas emissions. Certainly, a building could be highly efficient but still use fossil fuels. “In this case, it should not be considered as exemplary as a building that is highly efficient and fossil fuel-free,” emphasizes Dussault.  

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