According to Natural Resources Canada, the Building sector accounts for about 30% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. This is almost equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from the Transportation sector. Retail buildings in Canada account for 17% of building energy consumption, while commercial offices consume 35%. However, unlike the office typology, issues of sustainability are rarely addressed in retail buildings. Of buildings attaining a LEED® Rating in Canada, only 6% are retail buildings and of those registered, but not certified, the ratio is only 3.5%.

"...the Building sector accounts for about 30% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada."

Given the increasing pressure to develop net-zero and carbon neutral projects to respond to the urgent challenges of climate change and urban growth, the CN-SBS research project will push the retail typology beyond current definitions of green building and address the issues of carbon neutrality.

Research will focus on the retail typology and aim to show how steel can contribute towards a net-zero/carbon neutral building project. A 600 m2 owner-constructed and operated retail building will be proposed in Cambridge, Ontario. A schematic design will be conducted to demonstrate how steel can be used as part of a carbon neutral building project. This will include a basic design of some passive design strategies that are supplemented with renewable energy to demonstrate methods of achieving both net-zero and carbon-neutral operating energy. Only upon achieving this goal, does the embodied energy of the building components become a crucial issue. However, a complete and detailed design/analysis of the mechanical systems necessary to achieve zero operating energy is beyond the scope of work for this project.

The objective of this research project is to show how steel can be used in the context of a carbon neutral building project. More specifically, show how a rigid-framed, steel building system can be used to help create a carbon neutral retail building.

SBS is already commonly used in retail buildings and shows great potential as the structural system in a low carbon project. A simplified case study building will be identified and used to draw comparisons between an SBS framing system and a comparable heavy timber framed system. The goal of the comparison is to show that steel buildings have major advantages in terms of material optimization, connections, and ease of deconstruction that make them great candidates for the carbon neutral buildings of the future.

The issues of carbon, energy, and material use in sustainable construction are inextricably linked. The ultimate goal of this research will be to provide a body of research to support the use of steel in low carbon building projects over other building materials.