Evidence of meeting #12 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was building.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Ellen Burack  Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services
  • Shirley Jen  Senior Director, Real Property and Material Policy Division, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Berny Latreille  Director, Environmental Affairs, Department of the Environment

March 26th, 2009 / 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank you for coming in this morning. We appreciate your testimony. We also appreciate and thank you for the positive information you've provided us this morning.

I know this is something the departments have been working toward, and your department specifically has over the last while. I'd like to commend you for the efforts and for the successes in terms of the number of LEED platinum buildings that have been constructed and the ones that are in the planning stages right now as well.

One thing that I think ties into the previous comments is the concern we've identified in our procurement discussions with some of these companies we've been speaking to.

When we talk about the four stages of uses of any purchase, obviously one of the most important is the life span or the usage stage, because even though there may be a product that is a little bit more detrimental or a little less sensitive to the environment when it's constructed, if it lasts four times longer, obviously that's something that has to be considered.

Specifically, I've spoken to some companies that have concerns in terms of procurement when it comes to supplying the government with furniture. Obviously I can see where the government...and I actually endorse the way the government has worked toward unifying or having a standard type of desk and a different type of modular system so that it can be reused and the life span can be expanded. Has there been any consideration to designing a modular system that would be government-owned, that would be able to be issued to the different competitors, so when a company does not win the contract to supply a particular modular system, then the government is tied to that company indefinitely because the modular system they may be supplying is only being supplied, or can only be supplied, by that company because of the specific nature of that modular system?

I'm looking at this from the furniture angle, but I'm also wondering about other places where this type of practice could be implemented. Is that something government is looking at or considering?

12:15 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

To the best of my knowledge, that is not being looked at, but I would like to be able to check on that and get back to you, with the caveat that as that wouldn't be specifically a green-driven initiative, then it's entirely possible it's something someone is thinking about but has not discussed with me.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

I certainly don't take issue with your comment, but I suggest it possibly plays into a greening initiative. If a line of furniture or a component structure becomes obsolete simply because the manufacturer has determined that, the entire modular system becomes obsolete and there's no ability to add and subtract as government needs. We have identified the lifespan issue as the most important component of the four stages. If we can't continue the lifespan, we have a green or an environmental problem because of the disposal of the entire framework. It would have to be disassembled, disposed of, and replaced with something else.

I bring that as a suggestion. It's something I'd like our committee to investigate as we look into the procurement, but I think it needs to be noted as a possible environmental consideration as well.

12:15 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

I understand. I didn't mean to discount the potential environmental benefits of the approach you're describing. If it is under way, it's not under way in your green push. So I would have to ask some questions to learn whether that's something anyone is considering.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

I appreciate that. Thank you.

There was a question about what makes a product green. I know we had a discussion about the procurement, and there's a different consideration for office supplies compared to office furniture, and then for buying buildings.

I was a builder prior to this job. We in Alberta have something called Built Green, which is the provincial residential program for green buildings. We use LEED for commercial buildings in the province like every other province, but Built Green is an initiative of the province and what I'm familiar with. We were engaged in working on green buildings for residential construction. It was interesting when I first became aware and was being educated in this program. Sometimes I would wonder why I was getting credit for usage of a certain product, but it was tied very closely to the durability and long-lasting nature of a particular product.

I wonder if you might know or have some specifics about the LEED program, for the information of the committee, and what types of things would be integrated into the establishment of a platinum standard. Obviously design is one of those attributes. I'm wondering if you could speak to the surfaces and other components that play an important role in considering whether something would qualify for the platinum standard.

12:20 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

I'd be happy to provide material that the Canada Green Building Council has about the LEED rating system, and platinum in particular. I wouldn't be able to speak in too much technical detail. I can say that from an energy use perspective, building to a LEED platinum standard gets you a greater than 60% improvement in energy performance of the building relative to the standard. But I can't speak to the products, durability, and that sort of thing. I'd be happy to facilitate the committee in accessing those documents from the Canada Green Building Council.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

I think it would be interesting to committee members to really understand what's involved in the platinum standard. A number of things are considered, and it isn't simply changing the light bulbs so they're energy efficient. It really is a feat to get a platinum building.

I understand this is a major success and something that needs to be applauded. If more information could be provided to the committee, there would be an inclusive recognition of just how amazing it is that the government has been successful in developing and building these buildings to that standard.

Thank you very much. I appreciate your attendance here today.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.

In interest of green procedures, you've agreed to facilitate our access to documents as opposed to delivering them.

12:20 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

We'll send them to you.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

The access is really important. Before we say we'd all like to have all of these documents, we should have an idea of how many pages and pounds are involved, with the realization that whenever we move documents around they have to be in two languages. This could be a multi-thousand dollar exercise before we're done. But if Mr. Warkentin is happy just to have access....

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Maybe I could make a suggestion for the sake of saving the environment. I know that a number of these documents could be provided online in both languages, specifically when it comes to the LEED standards and various things. If you could just provide us with that link and then with whatever other documentation there is, that would be great.

12:20 p.m.

Director General, Office of Greening Government Operations, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Ellen Burack

Mr. Chairman, I'm quite confident that the Canada Green Building Council themselves have the documents in both languages, since a lot of construction is in locations where that would be required, so we'll provide the appropriate links to the committee.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

The links; that sounds perfect.

I'll just note that the LEED standard replicates my own personal e-mail address here on Parliament Hill, so I'd ask you to be careful as you—

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

I never claimed a copyright.

Thank you, Mr. Warkentin.

Mr. Martin, you'll have eight minutes.