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Achieving Airtightness: A Green Mandate That Pays Dividends

An Overview of Toronto’s Green Standards and Its Implications for Building Owners, Engineers, Architects, and Developers

The City of Toronto, known for its innovative policies aimed at creating a sustainable future, has put forth stringent requirements on building airtightness through the Toronto Green Standard (TGS). But far from being just another regulatory hurdle, meeting the TGS's airtightness requirements can actually offer building owners and developers substantial financial benefits. Here's how.


A Closer Look at the Toronto Green Standard

The TGS is a set of performance measures that pertain to the design and construction of new buildings and major renovations. Under the TGS, building airtightness is not just an energy efficiency measure; it's a mandated requirement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.


Here’s a look at current and future TGS mandates for building airtightness:


2025:

2026:

2027:

2028:


Buildings that don't meet these standards not only face regulatory hurdles but are also less efficient, leading to higher energy consumption. According to a 2020 study by the National Research Council Canada, a 10% reduction in air leakage can result in a 5% energy savings, making compliance with the TGS not just a regulatory necessity but a financial advantage.


Why Airtightness Matters

An airtight building minimizes the escape of conditioned air, reducing the load on HVAC systems. According to industry data, buildings that meet airtightness standards can expect to see a decrease in energy consumption of up to 40%.


Cost Implications: More Than Just Energy Savings

While the immediate benefit of reduced energy consumption translates to lower utility bills, the advantages don't stop there. Building owners and developers can actually realize capital expense reductions in the form of smaller mechanical plants and systems. The less air you lose, the less energy you need to condition new air, which means you can install smaller, less expensive HVAC systems without sacrificing performance.


Meeting and Exceeding the Standards

Meeting the TGS airtightness standards requires a collaborative effort from engineers, architects, and developers. It begins in the design phase, using predictive modeling to estimate energy consumption, and extends into construction, where materials and methods must be selected with airtightness in mind. Post-construction, buildings should undergo a blower door test to measure airtightness and ensure compliance with TGS standards.


The ROI of Airtightness

Although public conception is that the upfront cost of designing and constructing an airtight building will be higher, this is not necessarily the case, as mechanical plant downsizing can help developers offset the cost of achieving airtightness through the use of new and innovative sealing technologies. For building owners who intend on building and holding the asset, the returns are multiplied with ongoing energy savings and less carbon tax liabilities, not to mention an increase in net asset value. In either scenario, the long-term financial gains are undeniable.


A Case for Going Beyond Compliance

As we approach a future where energy costs are likely to rise and environmental concerns become more pressing, the TGS requirements around building airtightness represent a minimum standard. Forward-thinking developers are already exceeding these requirements, factoring in future policy changes and potential carbon pricing.


The Bottom Line

Building airtightness isn't just about compliance; it's an investment in the building's future profitability and sustainability. As stricter regulations like the TGS continue to be enacted, the financial benefits of airtight buildings will increasingly come into focus, serving as a compelling reason for stakeholders to prioritize this critical aspect of building design.


Conclusion

While the Toronto Green Standard places demands on new and renovated buildings, it's important to see these not as obstacles but as pathways to greater efficiency and profitability. By investing in building airtightness today, you're not just meeting a mandate—you're building value for tomorrow.


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