Niall shares his experience from Guest Speaking at CaGBC's Net Zero Summit

Niall Crosson - CaGBC Event

Introduction - Net Zero Summit

Ecological's Niall Crosson was recently invited as a guest speaker at the Canadian Green Building Council's - Net Zero Summit on the 30th May in Vancouver.  The Net Zero Summit is a pre-conference event featuring a kick-off to the GaGBC's Zero Carbon Buildings Standard.  The one-day event included five technical sessions which addressed the key challenges and opportunities for net-zero design and construction.  Delegates were introduced to a variety of talks which included

  • The foundational components of zero carbon buildings in real-life strategies for modelling and designing for net zero emissions,
  • surveying the policy horizon across Canada,
  • net zero approaches to existing building retrofits,
  • evaluating the embodied carbon of building materials,
  • exploring pathways to net zero

The lunch plenary featured a diverse roundtable of international and domestic experts on net zero, including Niall, discussing their insights and lessons learnt in delivering net zero buildings on the ground.  The following is a brief synopsis of Niall's experiences from the trip.

It was an honour to be invited as a guest speaker at this year's CaGBC nZEB conference.  CaGBC sought an international perspective on how to design and/or retrofit buildings to low energy or net zero carbon performance and it is with this in mind, Ecological Building Systems were asked to provide our experiences over almost two decades of delivering high-performance building materials and training using more natural materials.  

Tour of Vancouver's advanced timber constructions 

Having arrived in Vancouver on Saturday the 27th of May, I was collected from the airport by my good friend Peter Moonen of Wood Works BC. Peter arranged a fantastic tour of UBC on Monday the 29th of May with his colleague Sukh Johal. UBC features a concentration of some of the most advanced timber constructions in the world including the world's tallest residential timber tower at 18 stories high, Brock Commons. The tour was attended by nZEB experts from Switzerland, Austria, Holland and Costa Rica to name a few. Gerry Mongey, Trade Commissioner with the Irish Canadian Embassy was also in attendance.

The tour was energetically delivering by Peter and Sukh who began the tour with some of the older tall wood buildings dating back almost 20 years. Following this, we progressed through other more modern timber buildings up to the newest building, Brock Commons in all its 18 storey glory.

It was insightful to see how as the understanding of the technical benefits and properties of wood evolved, its use has changed. An excellent example of this was described by Sukh as he explained how early engineered timber projects utilised vast quantities of steel fixings and plates due to a lack of understanding of the structural integrity of the wood, and a fear of risk due to fire. As the tour progressed to more modern buildings it was notable that the number of fixings and plates reduced, and where they were used they were embedded within the timber. This was due to the higher risk of steel warping or melting when exposed to fire, whereas timber will char for a known period, protecting the steel and providing greater integrity in the case of fire.

Following the tour, Peter invited all attendees to a delicious barbeque at his mother’s house in Vancouver, where we were treated to maple barbequed Sockeye Salmon.

The following morning I walked through the bustling streets of Vancouver to the Vancouver Convention Centre. There I was greeted by Gerry Mongey and we settled down to view the opening presentations. 

It was an honour to be present at the launch of the Canadian Green Building Councils Zero Carbon Building Standard.  

The Zero Carbon Building Standard

The Zero Carbon Building Standard provides a path for both new and existing buildings to reach zero carbon, with unique requirements for each. New construction projects earn Zero Carbon Building – Design certification by modelling a zero carbon balance, highly efficient envelope and ventilation systems to meet a defined threshold for thermal energy demand intensity, and onsite renewable energy systems capable of providing a minimum of 5% of building energy consumption. Project teams are required to evaluate energy use holistically, including impacts on peak electricity, and determine the GHG emissions associated with structural and envelope materials.

There were many outstanding presentations focused primarily on modelling and designing Net Zero Emissions buildings and the role out of Net Zero Carbon policies across Canada.

An Irish Perspective 

I contributed the international session which featured a roundtable of international and domestic experts in net zero development and building design and retrofit. In my presentation, I outlined how Ireland plans to meet its 2020 targets, with a particular focus on retrofit and our move to NZEB. I drew on my experience with the Irish Green Building Council and I was very grateful for the guidance of Marion Jammet, Business Development Manager with the IGBC prior to the event. I highlighted the excellent work carried out by the IGBC to publish the European funded guidance document titled: Build Upon: Towards Large-Scale Deep Energy Renovation, Unlocking Irelands Potential. I also referred to the need for training both building professionals and on-site personnel in the delivery of NZEB, such as the training courses we provide. Following my presentation Sussane Formanek, President of the renowned IBO Austrian Institute for Healthy Ecological Building delivered an insightful presentation. Following her presentation, Brad Liljequist from the International Living Future Institute provided a fascinating presentation in relation to the living building challenge. Finally, Bernd Vogl who is head of Municipal Department for Energy Planning in Vienna provided an excellent presentation. Our session was ably managed by Jonathan Laski of the World Green Building Council who managed to keep us all on track!

The evening sessions included some excellent retrofit presentations followed by an analysis of evaluating the embodied carbon in buildings with plenty of references to the well-established Passivhaus standard.
Overall the trip was a valuable learning exercise regarding the potential for wood on our market both from a technical and environmental perspective. It was also great to meet so many insightful people and hopefully, we can invite some of them to our UK or Irish offices in the future 

Ecological Building Systems offer free guidance in relation to airtightness.  For more information please do not hesitate to contact Ecological Building Systems at or call 046 -9432104.  Individuals are welcome to visit our showrooms and training centre in Athboy Co.Meath.

By Niall Crosson, Senior Engineer, MEng Sc, BTECH, MIEI, CEPHC

046 94 32104,

Posted on Tuesday, 4 July 2017
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