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“Less is Less”: Lessons learned during Canadian Environment Week

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For Canadian Environment Week, KPMB Lab hosted guest speakers from Ha/f Climate Design and Dr. Shoshanna Saxe, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and Director of the Centre of the Sustainable Built Environment who led us through presentations and workshops on how the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry can build more sustainably. 

“Less is Less” 

Kelly Doran, Juliette Cook, and Rashmi Sirkar provided a deep dive into the state of the built environment and upfront and whole life cycle carbon emissions, emphasizing the urgency in considering the impact our work has from the onset of the design process. 

Aptly titled Less is Less, Ha/f Climate Design’s presentation stressed that a crucial first step in the journey towards zero carbon buildings is building less. It’s imperative, right from the project’s inception, to carefully evaluate what is truly essential to fulfill a client’s needs and assess whether those needs can be met with fewer resources — whether by reducing the program of the building or using less construction materials. Subsequent steps include building sufficiently and efficiently and using low carbon materials. 

Ha/f Climate Design also engaged KPMB staff in workshops focused on Whole Building Life Cycle Analysis (WBLCA). These workshops’ objectives helped staff cultivate a deeper understanding of WBLCA, facilitate knowledge sharing, and advocate for low carbon design practices across the office and industry.  

“Building More with Less: Embodied GHG and the AEC Industry” 

Shoshanna Saxe’s presentation, Building More with Less: Embodied GHG and the AEC Industry, explored how the CSBE, a research centre at the University of Toronto supported by KPMB, identifies opportunities and pathways to build more with less and reduce greenhouse gas pollution in the built environment.  

Saxe shed light on Canada’s carbon budget within the construction sector and stressed the importance of keeping the budget front-of-mind amidst the anticipated surge in housing demands. 

She also highlighted the research conducted by the CSBE on “building more with less embodied carbon,” and shared enlightening research outcomes, including the total embodied carbon for various housing typologies, such as single-family homes, mid-high rises, laneway housing, rowhouses, and semi-detached houses. And shared design strategies that architects can use to reduce embodied carbon emissions. Strategies like using lightweight materials, building in areas with existing infrastructure, and reducing substructure size. 

The team at KPMB Lab is enthusiastic about leveraging the insights gained during Canadian Environment Week to continue to build out established low-carbon design workflow in KPMB’s projects.  

Learn more about KPMB Lab.