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Why Canada LEEDs the world in sustainable buildings

2015 is shaping up to be a trailblazing year for sustainable buildings.

More than 150 countries and territories around the world have LEED projects underway, representing every continent except for Antarctica. Internationally renowned landmarks from Empire State Building to the Maracanã Stadium and TAIPEI 101 are now LEED-certified spaces, illustrating the impact that sustainable construction and design are having on the world

And as the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual ranking of top countries for LEED certified buildings shows, the green movement is a universal cause that the world can get behind. The 10 countries topping the list are geographically and culturally diverse, representing seven of the world’s 20 largest single-nation economies, as well as six of the top 11 emitters of greenhouse gases.

Famous for its natural resources, including having more lakes than any other country, Canada tops the 2015 list for LEED certifications, nearly doubling the number in China – this year’s runner-up

Real Views sat down with Barbara Ciesla, Senior Vice President of Occupier Strategies and Solutions for JLL in Toronto to elaborate on Canada’s LEEDing position in sustainability.

What is the momentum behind Canada’s remarkable achievements in sustainability (nearly double the projects of China)?

“LEED has driven momentum in sustainability by providing a system that has successfully supported developers, designers, contractors, operators and occupiers in the process of building and runningLEED infographic sustainable buildings. Being a direct neighbor and trading partner with the U.S. – the country that developed LEED – has meant a quicker spillover and adoption of LEED in Canada. This was driven by Canadian visionaries and leaders in architecture, engineering and development who worked to establish a Canadian Green Building Council and advocated for the adoption of the certification system.

“With LEED utilizing North American standards, it was easier and quicker to adapt for the Canadian marketplace then perhaps in other countries. Uptake was further driven by tenant demand in the marketplace; some being U.S. based firms with locations in Canada.”

Does Canada have any advantages over other countries in this green space in terms of natural resources?

“In comparison to the other countries in the report, Canada’s initial impetus has been due to its strong ties with the U.S. Now environmental stewardship is becoming the norm, if not a value, and definitely an expectation of younger generations. With such vast expanses of open land, Canadians have a strong personal appreciation of the natural beauty that makes up our country, coast to coast. While a majority of Canadians live in major urban areas, they are never far from a quick escape to nature which inspires and compels Canadians to keep it protected. We also know that some of Canada’s natural resources are also some of the biggest environmental offenders when extracted, so corporations undertaking this work also strive to maintain as sustainable an operation as possible.”

Which areas of Canadian commercial real estate have seen the biggest improvements?

“The largest improvements have been in three key areas. Firstly, in the continued measurement of energy performance to understand the current state and the effectiveness of energy conservation measures, and using this information to inform future energy reduction targets. Secondly, in the adoption of commissioning and continuous commissioning to ensure designed performance of building systems is maintained and enhanced over the course of operations. And finally, in engaging building occupants in environmental stewardship to ensure they enhance, rather than negate the efficiency of the building design and operations.”

How would you suggest real estate teams incorporate sustainability into every project?

“Education is key. If you don’t understand why you’re pursuing something it won’t matter as much – if at all, and may mean efforts are only on the surface with little effect over the long term. Further to that, financial drivers in real estate need to be married with sustainable goals, clearly outlining how sustainable pursuits enhance financial returns of real estate.

“Every group that touches real estate must have its own responsibilities and associated key performance indicators for delivering a sustainable solution within their scope. After all, there is no greater cost in any organization than its people and their health.”

What feedback have clients shared after implementing green practices in their commercial spaces?

“Implementation of green practices has become the norm among commercial building owners. Commercial building tenants not only have expectations of their landlords but are also pursuing certification for their own tenancies. They do this because it enhances their brand, it helps them retain top talent and because many believe it’s the right thing to do.

“Pursuit of LEED certification exposes them to a deeper understanding of the challenges and reasons for undertaking environmental initiatives. It often inspires them to continue exploring further opportunities and driving sustainability deeper into their organizations. With the newly emerging WELL Building Standard, clients are being further inspired to do all they can to not only protect the environment but also ensure their own people/employees occupy the healthiest spaces which they know support and enhance employee performance.”​

This article originally appeared on Real Views, JLL's news site that features stories exploring the world of real estate and its impact on the wider business world. Visit the Real Views site to subscribe for our weekly email of top stories, delivered direct to your inbox.