Mark Fieder photographed by May Truong of Women Photograph
Climate action and urban resilience

Canadian cities: adapting for the future

Decarbonization is a top priority for owners and occupiers in Canada’s major cities.

To reduce the impacts of climate change, the Government of Canada has committed to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050.

The building sector is one of the largest sources of emissions in Canada. With over 16 million dwellings, and nearly half a million commercial, industrial and public buildings in use, real estate decisions play a critical part in meeting net zero targets.

Most notably, municipalities have emerged as leaders in climate change mitigation.

They are experiencing firsthand the economic and human costs inflicted by extreme weather events like forest fires, ice storms, and flooding. In the face of devastating and costly disasters, municipalities play a pivotal role in coordinating emergency responses and collaborating with businesses to lessen the impacts of climate events. By implementing short and long-term strategies, they not only protect lives but also safeguard the continuity of local businesses.

Avison Young’s Principal and President of Canada, Mark Fieder, recognizes that cities are in a time of transition, and it’s our responsibility to lead the change needed for a sustainable future.

“Leading on transformation has always been baked into our purpose. Now, more than ever, we need to be at the forefront of understanding how the demands on both cities and real estate are evolving, and how we can urgently contribute to positive change for people and the planet,” says Mark.

“Our teams across Canada are actively seeking ways to address the biggest environmental and social issues facing cities, and how we can generate positive impacts along the way. It’s up to us to find creative ways to adapt the spaces we have today, to support our communities and the economy in the future,” he adds.

The pandemic forced enormous shifts in the way we use buildings and spaces, with the biggest impact being on how, when and where we work. While the longer-term impact on office use is still evolving, a significant share of existing office stock is ripe for retrofit and repositioning – which may be the key to both lowering emissions and providing scalable solutions for other critical urban challenges, such as the need for affordable, safe and barrier-free housing.

“Converting and retrofitting existing assets keeps them competitive for owners, adds premium value and offers a solution which is quicker to market. Future-proofing buildings in this way can also enable better resilience in the face of future climatic conditions,” says Mark.

While adaptive reuse projects can be complex, in most cases we know it’s more sustainable to reuse existing buildings than to build new ones, though it won’t always be the answer. This approach promotes the conservation of resources, reduces embodied carbon and waste, and contributes to the revitalization of urban areas,” he explains.

Photography by Aditya Chinchure courtesy of Unsplash

Vancouver: Climate action on Canada’s west coast

With a strong focus on high-performance, zero-emission green buildings, the city has set ambitious operational and embodied carbon emission reductions and has stated that all new construction must be zero-emissions by 2030. To achieve this, Vancouver is implementing strict limits on emissions and energy use in new buildings, while also providing incentives, funding, and support for innovation in building technologies and construction materials.

Vancouver considers sea levels, temperatures, and wildfires by incentivizing advanced air filtration and cooling systems, ensuring healthier air quality, improved comfort, and reduced climate risks. Additionally, Vancouver has introduced a mandatory “Community Benefit Agreements” policy, encouraging developers to collaborate with the surrounding established communities, engage with and support neighbours and local businesses, and demonstrate a commitment to local inclusive employment, and local procurement.

The city says its green building policies will continue to provide opportunities for local businesses, local workforce, and industry innovation, which contributes to a strong green economy.

“Converting and retrofitting existing assets keeps them competitive for owners, adds premium value and offers a solution which is quicker to market.”Mark Fieder, Principal, President, Canada
Mark Fieder
photographed by May Truong
of Women Photograph

Edmontonians are changing for the climate in Alberta’s industrial heartland

Edmonton is not always the first Canadian city that comes to mind, but you might be surprised to know that the majority of Edmontonians are concerned about climate change and want to take action now.

The City of Edmonton’s “Change for Climate” program is a call to all Edmontonians to take action and work together to reduce emissions by 35% by 2035. Taking a citywide movement approach, the city of Edmonton is changing the conversation.

The Edmonton Community Energy Transition Strategy is creating bold and transformative pathways, focused on Renewable Energy Transition, Emission Neutral Buildings, Low Carbon City and Transportation as well as Nature-Based Solutions and Carbon Capture. Each pathway has goals that set out what needs to be achieved for a low-carbon, prosperous, just and equitable future.

Photography by Brandon Erlinger-Ford courtesy of Unsplash

Toronto: Transformative journey to net zero real estate city wide

With a bold vision to achieve net-zero emissions from buildings by 2040, Toronto's net zero existing buildings strategy mandates all privately-owned homes and buildings to undergo decarbonization, bolstered by support from the City. This comprehensive approach includes policies such as mandatory annual reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, setting emissions targets, conducting energy audits, and streamlining retrofit processes.

Simultaneously, the Toronto Green Standard sets sustainable design requirements for new developments, accompanied by financial incentives for high-performance, low-emission projects. Moreover, the City of Toronto is spearheading the net zero carbon plan for its own buildings, emphasizing environmental impact reduction and operational cost optimization.

These strategies collectively future-proof buildings and mitigate risk, while advancing Toronto’s real estate sector towards a sustainable future.

Montreal: Fostering the future of zero carbon urban living

Montreal's real estate and development landscape is on the verge of a profound transformation as the city embraces an ambitious Climate Plan that aspires to create a future in Montreal that is Carbon Neutral, Resilient and Inclusive. With the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, this Plan highlights the importance of climate leadership, action and resilience for residents, businesses, and the infrastructure that supports them.

At the esteemed “Sommet Climat Montréal” in 2022, Mayor Valérie Plante, showcased Montreal’s unwavering commitment to mitigating its carbon footprint, unveiling new local benchmarks and targets for buildings. With Mayor Plante’s resolute determination to combat climate change head-on, the City of Montreal has mandated that all future construction in the city adhere to zero-emission standards from 2025 onward.

“Our cities are paving the way toward a more sustainable future, inspiring people and businesses to unite in the global effort to mitigate climate change, and to create a better world for generations to come,” says Mark.

“These examples highlight the diverse approaches taken by Canadian municipalities to address the climate crisis. These cities are setting precedents, demonstrating the transformative power of local action, and inspiring others to follow suit in building a sustainable, inclusive and resilient future,” ends Mark.

“Now, more than ever, we need to be at the forefront of understanding how the demands on both cities and real estate are evolving, and how we can urgently contribute to positive change for people and the planet.”Mark Fieder, Principal, President, Canada
Photography by
Eddy Lee courtesy of Unsplash

This article is part of our 2022 Impact Report

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