Glossary

Technical terms and definitions used throughout this website are explained right here.



Carbon Dioxide Equivalency (CO2e)

A measure of the amount of CO2 that would cause the same value of radiative forcing (i.e. have the same GWP) as a given mixture of CO2 and other GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere. The CO2e must be measured over a consistent timeframe, which is generally taken to be 100 years as was the case for GWP. The most common units for CO2e for statistical reporting are Megatonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (Mt of CO2e).


Carbon Neutral Buildings

1. Zero Net Energy Buildings:

Buildings that on an annual basis use no more energy than what is provided by on-site renewable energy sources. The building can still produce carbon through burning of biofuels such as biomass, wood chips, other waste, etc. Only the operating energy is considered in the analysis.

2. Carbon Neutral Buildings:

Like Zero Net Energy Buildings, but no carbon is produced from renewable energy sources (ex. wind, solar, etc.). Only the operating energy is considered in the analysis.

3. Holistic Carbon Neutral Buildings:

Reduce the carbon emissions associated with all aspects of the project. This includes the construction, materials, and operating energy. Both the operating energy and the embodied energy of the building materials are considered in the analysis.

4. Complete Carbon Neutral Buildings:

Like Holistic Carbon Neutral Buildings, but also includes the transportation energy, the building function, and the carbon contribution from occupant transportation. This is the most rigorous definition of a carbon neutral building and includes all aspects of carbon emissions such as the operating energy, the embodied energy of the building materials, the transportation energy, and the overall building function.


Climate Change

“Changes in long-term weather patterns caused by natural phenomena and human activity that alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of Greenhouse Gases” (Environment Canada, 2008).


Embodied Energy

According to Canadian Architect, Embodied Energy is “the amount of non-renewable energy that is consumed with respect to the building materials in terms of the acquisition of raw materials, their processing, manufacturing, transportation, construction, and repair/replacement”. The Embodied Energy is further sub-divided into two components:

1. Initial Embodied Energy:

“In buildings, the Initial Embodied Energy represents the non-renewable energy consumed in the acquisition of raw materials, their processing, manufacturing, transportation to site, and construction”.

2. Recurring Embodied Energy:

“In buildings, the Recurring Embodied Energy represents the non-renewable energy consumed to maintain, repair, restore, refurbish or replace materials, components, or systems during the life of the building”.


Global Warming Potential (GWP)

A dimensionless term that was developed to compare one GHG to another in terms of their ability to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. By definition, “a GWP is the time-integrated change in radiative forcing due to the instantaneous release of 1 kg of the gas expressed relative to the radiative forcing from the release of 1 kg of CO2” (Environment Canada, 2008). The term “radiative forcing” means the amount of heat-trapping potential for a certain GHG and is often expressed in the units of watts per m2.


Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

According to Natural Resources Canada, Greenhouse Gas “absorbs and radiates heat in the lower atmosphere that otherwise would be lost into space” (Natural Resources Canada, 2008). The main Greenhouse Gases that are monitored by Canada’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory are: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Carbon Dioxide is by far the most abundant greenhouse gas, accounting for approximately 78% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 (Environment Canada, 2008).


Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Life-Cycle Assessment is “a comparative analysis process that evaluates the direct and indirect environmental burdens associated with a product, process, or activity” (Canadian Architect). The main goal of a LCA is to quantify energy and material use as well as other environmental parameters at various stages of a product’s life-cycle including: resource extraction, manufacturing, construction, service, and post-use disposal.


Operating Energy

“The amount of energy that is consumed by a building to satisfy the demand for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, equipment, etc.” (Canadian Architect).

Primary Energy Use:

“Represents the total requirement for all uses of energy, including energy used by the final consumer (see Secondary Energy Use), non-energy uses, intermediate uses of energy, energy in transforming one energy form to another (e.g. coal to electricity), and energy used by suppliers in providing energy to the market (e.g. pipeline fuel)” (Natural Resources Canada, 2008).

Secondary Energy Use:

“Energy used by final consumers for residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation purposes” (Natural Resources Canada, 2008). In terms of the Building sector, Secondary Energy Use refers to the energy used for space heating and cooling, lighting, operating appliances, etc. It does not include energy generation or transportation. It is only concerned with final end use on site.


Steel Building System (SBS)

A steel building system is "a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a collective entity". All elements in a steel building system work together to support each other and form a structure capable of resisting design loads, keeping out the weather, and limiting heat transfer.

An SBS features structural steel and cladding components, plus related accessories engineered and designed to act as an integrated building system. The system uses rigid frames or columns and beams as the primary structural elements; alternatively, it may be "self-framing", using the cladding as the primary load bearing roof and/or wall elements in addition to functioning as a weather barrier.

SBS buildings are fabricated by the manufacturer at a central location and shipped to builders across Canada. The manufacturer is responsible for the structural design and fabrication of the building system, and the builder is responsible for the erection and related work (e.g. concrete foundations, interior finishing, HVAC systems, etc.).


Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). With respect to the Building sector specifically, a more practical definition of a sustainable building is “a building that uses energy and material more effectively both in production and operation while polluting and damaging natural systems as little as possible” (Straube, 2006).