Zero Emissions Building Exchange opens in Vancouver

ZEBX — From left to right, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson; Sean Pander, City of Vancouver green building manager; Fiona Famulak, VRCA president; Christian Cianfrone, ZEBx executive director; Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Regenerative Applications CEO; and Rob Bernhardt, Passive House Canada CEO.

The recent official opening of the Zero Emissions Building Exchange (ZEBx) in Vancouver is a reminder, if one was needed, that the city is second to none among environmentally-friendly cities in Canada.

The launch of ZEBx, which took place in mid-July at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Building in downtown Vancouver, was attended by industry professionals and politicians, including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The first of its kind in Canada, the centre is a not-for-profit facility whose goal is, in its own words, to accelerate the capacity and enthusiasm of local developers, designers and builders to deliver cost-effective, zero-emissions new residential and commercial buildings in Vancouver.

A zero emissions building is one that can keep its occupants comfortable year-round without emitting any greenhouse gases.

Such a structure typically requires super-insulated walls, triple-paned windows and efficient ventilation, plus heat-pump technology for heating and domestic hot water.

ZEBX — Christian Cianfrone, ZEBx executive director, hopes ZEBx connects the construction industry with zero emissions building solutions.

ZEBx executive director Christian Cianfrone said, “We want to connect the construction industry with zero emissions building solutions in the form of programming, seminars and related information.”

The facility’s goal is to be a one-stop shop that will enable the construction industry to collaborate and partner in all aspects of zero emissions building.

“And our website — zebx.org — will be a virtual resource where we will compile and collate all the information on zero emissions building out there,” Cianfrone said.

Because ZEBx is not a member organization, it will cost nothing to use its services.

“But there might be a fee for some of our events, which will start up this fall,” he said.

The exchange, which will have a permanent staff of three, will occupy a large portion of The HiVE, a social impact shared space in Vancouver’s Gastown.

“Many of our industry partners, mainly architects and engineers, have started to occupy space in the centre,” said Cianfrone. “Later in the year they’ll be joined by other sectors of the industry to create a diverse cross-section.”

ZEBx is a partnership of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA), the City of Vancouver, Passive House Canada and the Open Green Building Society.

Other locally high-profile stakeholders in the centre include the BC Institute of Technology, Canada Green Building Council, Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, the Roofing Contractors Association of BC, Simon Fraser University, Stuart Olson Centre for Building Performance, University of British Columbia, Vancity and Wood WORKS! BC.

ZEBX — Fiona Famulak, VRCA president, hopes ZEBx will stimulate interest in ICI construction when it comes to zero emissions building.

VRCA president Fiona Famulak says that, because of consumer demand, there has been growing interest in the Lower Mainland in zero-emissions building for single-family residential building.

“We hope ZEBx will stimulate interest on the ICI (institutional-commercial-industrial) side of construction,” Famulak said. “And, after that, what happens in Vancouver will surely spread to the rest of the province and perhaps, in time, to the rest of the country.”

Craig Mitchell, director of Innovative Solutions at Metric Modular, which makes modular buildings, says many architects, engineers and large contractors in Vancouver have prepared themselves for zero-emissions building.

“They’ve invested the resources upfront and are ready for the changes in the building code,” said Mitchell. “But many of the smaller contractors haven’t done so yet. A lot of them don’t understand high-performance buildings and they are apprehensive about them.”

But Mitchell is optimistic the industry will take zero emissions building in stride.

“Every time there has been a change in the code, some education has been required, but the smaller guys have always been able to make the adjustment,” he said. “The incremental cost difference is not that great. Contractors who aren’t familiar yet with zero emissions building just need to be willing to learn.”

ZEBx originates in one of the strategies of the City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan.

Passed by city council in 2016, the goal of the plan is to eliminate emissions from new buildings by 2030 by increased energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The plan requires the majority of new buildings in Vancouver to have no operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and all new buildings to have no emissions by 2030.

Peter Caulfield / Journal of Commerce