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

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Merci.

Mr. Brown, for five minutes.

March 26th, 2009 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Thank you.

One thing I wanted to touch on is how you look at emerging environmental technology within the scope of government greening. For example, several years ago wind power or solar power would have been considered more efficient. I would suggest that now geothermal has the greatest benefit in a building in terms of its payback. Is there a process that looks at the success of the energy efficiency of new environmental technology?

12:45 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

It's an interesting question. As far as I know, there is no formal process for doing that. We frequently meet with companies that are interested in talking to us about their technologies. We are open to doing that. From where my office sits, we certainly work hard to make connections with them and others across the system to make sure they are able to communicate the benefits of their technologies. But as far as I know, there's no system across government for identifying specific technologies to pursue.

In the approach that we take within Public Works, which I think is a fairly widely used approach, it's results that are required as opposed to defining the technology. We will have requirements vis-à-vis the energy efficiency of a building. We may have requirements vis-à-vis a design, for example, that it must be LEED gold. It requires that a certain amount of energy must actually be generated by the building. But we wouldn't specify that the building must have a heat pump or that the building must have a certain amount of solar power.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

I guess what I'm getting at is this. A few months ago I was in a meeting at Yanch Heating, which is a company in my riding. Two fellows there, Adam Smith and Chris Yanch, gave a presentation on geothermal and the different areas of the world where it's being used. They said it would be much easier to get Canadians engaged in using an exciting and progressive environmental product such as this if the government led by example. They weren't aware of any government buildings in our region that utilized geothermal. At the time, I didn't have an answer on where it might be utilized elsewhere.

Are there any examples where geothermal is currently being utilized in government buildings? Are there any plans on going forward with its greater use in government buildings?

12:45 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

As I mentioned, there would be no plan to specify a particular technology.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Do you know of any that are currently utilizing geothermal ?

12:45 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

Yes, the Normand-Maurice Building in Montreal has some geothermal capacity. I've anecdotally heard that the Canada Border Services Agency has at least one facility that makes use of it. There is some out there. I suspect that the more we look to meet LEED gold and above requirements, the more we'll see that kind of energy production.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Sometimes developers build a building with the goal of getting the government as a tenant. For those individuals or those builders who are targeting the Government of Canada, how do we build an awareness that this is an element that is looked at? What attempts have been made to raise awareness that this is something the Government of Canada believes in and that we see the greening of a facility as an asset?

12:45 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

I can tell you about certain types of activities. For example, Public Works has a publication called Doing Business that is designed to reach out to companies that do business with the federal government. There recently was an article in it on a number of LEED buildings that Public Works has built. Using instruments like that, we demonstrate to Canadians our interest in pursuing that type of construction. In individual situations--when we look to build to lease, for example--that would be part of the specifications.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

To what extent does it make a difference if one potential lessor has a facility that is roughly equal in cost to one that's much greener, but maybe the facility that's not green is 1% less expensive? What weight does it have in the process if the facility is greener? Is it minuscule or...?

12:50 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

It's hard to speak to that in the abstract. It's rare that just one tiny element--not that it's necessarily a tiny element--is the difference between two projects. The decision to take one lease space over another is made on a case-by-case basis. It's not a decision that I myself am tasked with making.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

I guess I'm just curious about the extent to which consideration is paid to that aspect. Do you have any sense that it's a big asset, or is it more of a small consideration?

12:50 p.m.

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

Ellen Burack

I can tell you from a common sense perspective that if, for example, it means there will be significant energy savings, it would have a big impact. But I can't speak to the decision-making process on leasing more comprehensively than that.

I don't know if, Shirley, you have anything to add.

12:50 p.m.

Senior Director, Real Property and Material Policy Division, Treasury Board Secretariat

Shirley Jen

Maybe I can add something to this.

In our system, ministers and their deputy heads are responsible for the administration of assets under their departments. For example, the Minister of Public Works is responsible for office building accommodations. The Minister of Agriculture would be responsible for those buildings that go to support the agricultural program.

Each deputy head is responsible for preparing a sustainable development plan for his or her own department. And as part of that sustainable development plan, the particular deputy could make, in fact, a commitment to do such and such a thing with a building. It may mean things like increasing the percentage of buildings leased that are green from this percentage to that percentage. That really is very much the decision of the deputy and depends on the priority he or she puts on greening and on competing priorities, because as you're well aware, most ministers and deputies have many competing priorities.

All that is to say that I think there is a way in which that kind of emphasis on improving one's green performance in the situation you mentioned, which is to perhaps increase the consideration of green building standards, is part of that individual deputy's sustainable development goals. I would just say that it is very much, I think, a decision that would be taken by individual deputies.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Thank you. It was a good, healthy, long overtime round.

I have indications from two or three members that they have questions. There isn't time to give each member a full round, so it would be a question or an issue. We have Madame Bourgeois, for sure. And Mr. Martin indicated that he had some kind of.... No? I think it was Mr. Warkentin.

So I'll go to Ms. Bourgeois first. It won't be a full round. And then I'll go to Mr. Warkentin.