Cleantech: new regulations in Canada bring opportunities for Swiss SMEs

New carbon reduction standards and move to net zero buildings drive demand for sustainable building solutions in Canada.

Toronto is one of the cities that have introduced new energy standard
Toronto is one of the cities that have introduced new energy standard

Canada is a fast-growing country of 37 million people that has higher per capita energy use than most countries due to factors such as colder weather and low energy prices in some regions.   However, a major impetus to change this level of energy dependency is a desire on behalf of the federal and other governments and increasingly by the general population, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a significant amount of which is caused by energy usage associated with buildings. For Canada as a whole, this is 17% but is much higher for urban areas that do not produce energy from hydrocarbons.

Swiss products have an excellent reputation in the Canadian market and Canadian distributors would be pleased to work with Swiss companies where they have products that will add value to the Canadian green building sector. 

Swiss companies need to take into account factors specific to the Canadian market. The first is that carbon emissions vary across provinces as a result of population size, economic growth and type of energy production. For example, the province of Quebec produces almost all of its electricity from carbon-free hydroelectricity and uses much less natural gas for heating than Ontario, which produces over 50% of its electricity from nuclear and relies heavily on natural gas for much of the other power load and most of its heating.

A second point to be aware of is that federal bodies such as the National Research Council and Natural Resources Canada develop model codes that the ten provinces and in some cases municipalities, can adopt or amend as they see fit. This means that although there generally are similarities across the country, there can be differences and products typically must be approved by officials from the province in which they will be sold. The good news for Swiss companies that are already selling into the United States or for those that are interested in doing so at some point, is that although Swiss companies will need to receive Canadian certification, the Canadian norms typically are very similar to those required in the United States.

Energy projects in Toronto and Vancouver

Much of the change is driven by major cities where the bulk of the Canadian population lives. Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have introduced regulations that target moving to zero-carbon buildings. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has 50% more construction cranes than any other city in North America and is home to Waterfront Toronto, the largest urban development project in North America. Toronto is also characterized by some 2,000 high-rise residential buildings constructed prior to 1990, which for the most part are in need of complete energy efficiency refurbishments. In addition, Toronto’s Community Housing Corporation provides housing for over 60,000 families in older housing stock for which the government has ambitious plans to improve its energy efficiency. Canada’s third largest city, Vancouver, has established ambitious carbon reduction standards for both new and existing buildings to support its aspirations to be the world’s greenest city.

As a result of government and public pressure to reduce its carbon footprint, sustainability is an increasing consideration in Canada’s dynamic building sector, where $100 billion in building permits were issued in 2018. Of these, $35 billion were for multi-unit residential, $28 million for low-rise residential, $22 billion for commercial, $8 billion for institutional and $7 billion for industrial permits. More residential building permits were issued for Toronto than for the next two largest cities combined, which were Vancouver and Montreal. Industrial activity is concentrated in Toronto, Montreal and Alberta, which is home to most of Canada’s oil producing sector. Private sector green certifications such as LEED, Energy Star or BOMA Best, which go beyond building codes, are increasingly important, especially in the commercial space.

The Canadian Green Building Council, which is an influential thought leader on sustainable buildings in Canada, has identified four key actions required to realize carbon reduction objectives:

1.optimize existing building systems for improved control and operational performance
2. undertake deep retrofits in buildings to higher-performance standards, focusing on energy reduction and ensuring that key building systems such as lighting, HVAC and envelopes are upgraded

3. incorporate solar or other on-site renewable energy systems in buildings with jurisdictions and the private sector to switch to low-carbon fuel sources in buildings

The federal government’s 2017 budget committed $21.9 billion over ten years to green infrastructure to help support the goals of the federal Framework to reduce carbon to meet Paris Accord targets.  This funding is disbursed to provinces and municipalities to fund initiatives they have to achieve or improve upon the federal agenda.

Opportunities for Swiss SMEs

Opportunities exist for Swiss companies with innovative products in: highly-energy efficient fenestration and doors; heat pumps for space and water heating: cross-laminated timber; passive house buildings; and smart building technology. In addition, solutions for the building envelope and whole-building energy modelling are in demand in Canada.

Switzerland Global Enterprise will be hosting an event on June 11 that will highlight opportunities for Swiss companies in the Canadian sustainable building market.  It will take place in Ruswil at the headquarters of SIGA, which has successfully entered the Canadian marketplace. This will be the occasion to hear details of a study Swiss Business Hub Canada undertook on opportunities for Swiss companies in this space as well as to hear about suggestions for ways in which your firm can access the Canadian market. For more information about the event and to register click here.


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