As of June 3, 2022 WR Community Energy has closed our RFP seeking proposals from qualified and experienced consultants to lead the first phase of the design of Green Development Standards (GDS) for Waterloo Region. The first phase of this work is focused on educating and generating buy-in from key municipal and utility partners in preparation of the development of a unified GDS across Waterloo Region. We expect to make a decision on the successful proponent by end of June 2022 and for a final phase 1 report to be delivered in late fall 2022.
The WR Community Energy team spoke to Cheyenne Bholla of the Waterloo Region Record about our work exploring Green Development Standards.
Introduction to GDS
Provincial legislation, plans, and policies encourage the establishment of sustainable complete communities and is further supported by regional and local plans, such as the Region of Waterloo’s Official Plan (ROP); the Official Plans (OP) of Cambridge, Waterloo, and Kitchener; Transform WR, and
the Community Energy Investment Strategy. The sum of these plans and policies, however, is not enough to ensure a clean energy transition, mitigate the worst effects of climate change, or meet our GHG reduction targets.
We further understand that in order to meet our energy and climate change goals, we need to work alongside our other leading communities to engage industry and all levels of governments. Collaboration lies at the heart of our energy and climate change work in Waterloo Region. WR Community Energy leads an Energy and Land-Use Working Group consisting of experts from the Region of Waterloo (the Region); the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo (the cities); Waterloo North Hydro, Kitchener Wilmot Hydro, GrandBridge Energy, Enbridge Gas Inc., and Kitchener Utilities (the local utilities). This working group has prioritized the development of Green Development Standards. It’s sub-committee, the GDS Working Group, is overseeing this project.
All local councils in Waterloo Region have declared a climate emergency or crises, paving the way for ambitious actions on perhaps the biggest gap in our climate action plan: community level new buildings. GDS are a critical policy tool for municipalities to guide development and community design to minimize greenhouse (GHG) emissions, adapt to changing weather patterns, preserve the natural environment, reduce infrastructure demands, and create connected and resilient communities. The GDS Working Group understands that alternatives to GDS, like sustainability checklists, do not always lead to desired results. GDS are mentioned directly or indirectly in the Community Energy Investment Strategy (CEIS) and ROP. Core elements of a GDS (e.g. energy strategies) are being explored already in our community. An appropriate GDS for Waterloo Region will ensure that by ~2030, all new buildings in Waterloo Region are:
- Constructed to net zero emissions standards;
- Using compact design principles that enable active, or electric transportation;
- Efficiently using land and enhance the local tree canopy and green space;
- Resilient to climate change impacts like flooding and extreme weather and temperatures.
Beyond direction from the province and expected changes to the National Building Code and the Ontario Building Code, municipalities in Waterloo Region are committed to low-carbon sustainable growth. One of the strengths on our community is our history of collaboration when it comes to energy and climate action. WRCE’s Energy and Land-Use Working Group, and the GDS Working Group that emerged from it, is the most recent example of this collaboration.
Other examples include:
- ClimateActionWR, a collaboration between local organizations, community members, and municipalities within Waterloo Region focused on climate change mitigation and set a 80% GHG reduction target by 2050 (80by50). Their TransformWR report outlines our community’s pathway to 80by50, and identifies local actions that can be taken in Waterloo Region to reduce emissions 30% by 2030.
- The Community Energy Investment Strategy (CEIS) is a partnership between municipalities and utilities to improve and sustain Waterloo Region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life through the coordination of targeted energy investments. WR Community Energy is the group that administers the CEIS. Much of the work of WRCE is done through our cross-sectoral working groups: focusing on Land-Use and Development, Communications, and Community Efficiency Financing.