According to a study by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canada must construct 5.8 million housing units to restore affordability by the end of 2030. Presently, the number of units being built falls short by 3.5 million. However, the construction of new homes to the minimum standards of today could potentially increase greenhouse gas emissions, leading to homes that are ill-equipped to provide protection against extreme weather conditions, such as forest fire smoke, and rising energy and maintenance costs.

Moreover, inefficient buildings may not be cost-effective, leaving owners and occupants susceptible to escalating expenses. It’s crucial to emphasize that constructing inefficient buildings rapidly is not a viable solution. Instead, it’s imperative to adopt new construction practices and techniques that prioritize energy-efficiency and climate-friendliness.

Eco-friendliness, the key to skyrocketing productivity

Requiring higher sustainability standards is essential in advancing the construction sector towards a more productive path, ultimately leading to an increase in the supply of housing. Research suggests that enforcing energy-efficient and climate-resilient measures does not substantially increase costs. A comprehensive review indicates that the construction expenses for the most sustainable buildings are only three to four percent higher than those built to meet the minimum code requirements.

Preliminary research indicates that constructing all-electric buildings built to net-zero energy-ready standards can be achieved at a lower cost than comparable code-minimum structures. Additionally, as high-performance construction techniques become more prevalent, these marginal costs are likely to decline further. However, the industry’s productivity remains a significant challenge. Without addressing this issue, efforts to scale up housing construction may result in increased costs, subpar building performance, higher risks of cost overruns and project delays, and boom-bust patterns that discourage individuals from pursuing careers in the trades.

Get the lowdown on 10 Net-Zero Building Methods

1.  PreFab is the first action item on the list is to explore pre-manufacturing building components in a factory and then transporting them to the construction site. This approach ensures the mitigation of project interruptions and quality issues due to weather, while also providing a secure and comfortable work environment. Additionally, this method guarantees that building components are airtight and continuously insulated, leading to optimal energy efficiency performance.

2. IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) involves all stakeholders in the design of construction projects and holds them accountable for the overall performance of the building. This approach enables the team to identify and implement cost-saving measures while enhancing climate performance using a collaborative approach. One such example is the emphasis on airtightness, which can potentially eliminate the need for larger and more expensive heating systems.

3.  Constructing buildings with less complex shapes can enhance their energy efficiency and durability while simultaneously reducing energy expenses and material costs.

4.  Incorporating green practices in construction can appeal to upcoming generations of environmentally conscious individuals who embrace digital technologies.

5. Net-zero emission building codes and performance standards for publicly funded housing can serve as a definitive blueprint for the construction industry. By adopting these measures, supply chains can be primed to circumvent any potential shortages or bottlenecks in the future.

6. Constructing additional housing units in urban areas with convenient access to services and amenities can boost density, resulting in a reduction in the cost per home built. This approach also offers individuals the opportunity to walk, bike or use public transport. It’s worth noting that existing infrastructure can be utilized in these constructions. Moreover, energy-efficient district energy systems can provide power to multiple buildings simultaneously.

7. The utilization of electrified mid-rise construction negates the need for natural gas distribution service, thereby mitigating associated costs and scheduling concerns. Opting to construct “missing middle” mid-rise buildings using wood instead of concrete or steel is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. These buildings also eliminate the requirement for energy-intensive elevators and onsite parking, which necessitate the use of expensive and emissions-intensive concrete.

8.  Incorporation of sensors and intelligent technologies can notify construction site managers regarding water pipe leaks and material damage, potentially preventing cost and insurance premium escalation. Post-construction, these technologies aid energy system optimization, accounting for variables such as weather and building occupancy, and offer insights for future designs.

9.  Building Information Modelling (BIM) offers a cost-effective and collaborative method for home designers to test construction designs, techniques, and material options in a virtual environment. This approach reduces costs and enhances energy efficiency.

10. Digital technologies allow for better tracking of materials, time, and risks, enabling construction managers to assess costs and contingencies. This information can be utilized to minimize material wastage, enhance safety, and optimize energy efficiency. By employing Smart contracts, we can track the environmental impact of building materials, reduce fraud, and minimize scheduling risks. By planning supply chains in response to demand, we can achieve better access to sustainability-enhancing materials and services, resulting in faster and more cost-effective delivery.