Fuel a small part of construction`s greenhouse impact


The best way for Canadian construction to reduce its energy consumption will not necessarily be found in how it powers its work, says a leading energy research analyst.

'The energy consumed in construction products is 35 to 40 per cent of the grand total of energy consumed in Canada. The ‘stuff’ that construction needs to make 'stuff is energy intensive,' said John Nyboer, executive director of the Canadian Industrial Energy End-use Data and Analysis Centre (CIEEDAC) at Simon Fraser University.

Nyboer was a keynote speaker at the recent Canadian Construction Association annual conference, making a presentation on greening the industry.

He noted that Canadian construction is 'limited' in how it can green itself through reductions in its primary energy use.

'Energy use in the process of construction is about 0.5 per cent of the total energy consumption in Canada and is about 2.1 per cent of industrial consumption/' said Nyboer.

Energy costs in total account for only 1.5 per cent of the industry's expenditures, trailing far behind items such as materials at 44 per cent and labour at 31 per cent. Just last year, Canadian construction spent S4 billion on energy.

'This has not varied a lot over time,' he added.

Nyboer's research uncovered a statistic that claimed Canadian construction produces 25 per cent of Canada's solid waste, which likely includes materials from demolition. He said that just changing this number would have a 'huge impact'' on greenhouse gas emissions.

Nyboer said Canadian construction can reduce its environmental impact by advocating for a carbon-price system. He also believes government should introduce programs and regulations to facilitate a cap-and-trade policy.

'What effective climate policy experts know is that effective climate policy requires a cost to emitting carbon and greenhouse gases,'1 explained Nyboer. 'Unless you put a cost on it, people are generally apathetic.

Nyboer also believes that Canadian construction should also look for energy sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction technologies. Also, it should seek to develop regulations that enhance performance and not just a minimum standard and promote and establish value over price. Construction should also emphasize the value of what it makes versus the cost of what it makes.

'The construction industry must play a leading role in designing and implementing government policies that start the global energy system on a long-term transformation to zero greenhouse gas emissions.' Nyboer said.

Between 1990 and 2007, construction industry energy consumption and C02 emissions decreased by seven per cent and six per cent respectively, according to a 2009 review by Nyboer.

During that same period, gross output increased by 54 per cent and gross domestic product increased by 51 per cent respectively.

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