Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
Thanks for inviting me here today. It's a pleasure to share this conversation with you.
I want to talk about a couple of things, but first I would like to provide a little bit of background. I'm a conservation architect and urbanist with a small firm here in Ottawa that does architecture, urbanism, and conservation. I'm involved in a lot of professional and community volunteer activities related thereto. One that is related to today's conversation is The Association for Preservation Technology. We are partnered with the National Trust this year for our annual conference, which is just two weeks away. We have almost 1,000 delegates coming from around the world, primarily Canada and the U.S., to look at the very issues that you're studying. By all means, if you'd like to join us, the invitation is there. Chris Wiebe of the National Trust will be able to help you out. I think he's here today.
I want to start by making a simple statement. I think it's extremely important that wherever members of Parliament can, they find ways to help preserve, rejuvenate, regenerate, and rehabilitate our heritage building stock, our historic places across Canada, and I'm here today to tell you why. I don't want to focus on the socio-cultural dimension. I want to focus on the environmental dimension, but as you'll see as we go through, it's also about economics and the positive impact on economics.
I don't want to leave that economic point hanging. We're involved in a lot of adaptive reuse projects and a lot of other projects for which an owner, a developer, has a piece of property, maybe a block or maybe a couple of blocks of urban property. They are looking to build a 20-storey multi-use complex, and it has a heritage building on it. They say, “They don't want me to tear it down because it has heritage designation. What should I do?” A lot of what we do is to help them understand that in fact it's not an obstacle. In fact, it's a lever. It's a benefit. It's an opportunity for them.
The opportunity comes not just through community goodwill and community benefit—both of those are there—but from purely a crass dollars-and-cents point of view, which is, to be fair, often the developer's point of view. They have a lot of condominium buildings and other buildings going up. Today we are densifying our cities, which is an act of environmentalism in itself and often can be a good thing. The more dense we get, the greater the need for our historic places to be preserved and adapted and reused.
I say to them that there are all these other developments happening in this neighbourhood in this city, and I ask them what's going to distinguish them in the marketplace. It's not just about providing the soul of a place that a heritage resource can give to a new development. It's actually economic benefit through differentiation in the marketplace. We have examples of price points being put up higher simply because of the relationship of the historic resources within that development. Instead of leaving the economic argument hanging, I just wanted to go there, because now we're going to focus a little bit more on the environmental side of historic preservation.
We were asked by a collaboration of federal, provincial, and territorial governments to prepare a document titled “Building Resilience” and subtitled “Practical Guidelines for the Sustainable Rehabilitation of Buildings in Canada”. It started out as a companion to the standards and guidelines document, which is published by Parks Canada document and has become over the last decade or two a bible for Canadian conservation.
I think the standards and guidelines piece has helped galvanize the heritage conservation community, making it stronger and more consistent. It's also given this community the confidence to be a little more flexible in the adaptive reuse and revitalization of our historic places. As long as we preserve the character-defining elements and heritage value that our historic places represent, other aspects of these places can be adapted to accommodate new and different uses. After all, it takes the use of a place to keep it going.
“Building Resilience”, as I said, started out as a companion document to the standards and guidelines publication. It then evolved into a stand-alone, pan-Canadian guidance document for the regeneration of all existing buildings. It's based on the phrase, “heritage conservation contributes to creating a sustainable built environment and resilient communities”. I think that's an incredibly important policy statement. It's now endorsed by every senior level of government in the country, including the federal government. I think that's a good starting point for some of your deliberations as you move through this study.
The document tells us why this is important. I want to remind you that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the global authority on climate change, has been clear in expressing how important existing buildings are when it comes to reaching carbon targets. Heritage buildings are a subset of existing buildings, but they're an important subset.
The document also explains why traditional buildings, our heritage buildings, are naturally sustainable in many ways, and it demonstrates that they carry a lot of inherently sustainable elements within them. In the days prior to the introduction in the late 1920s of HVAC, architects were more like master builders and learned how to provide comfort for the occupants of their buildings without a lot of machinery.
There are a lot of reasons why traditional buildings are already sustainable to a certain degree. I want to highlight two of them. Energy performance is a key factor in all of our environmental standards, all of our baselining, and in everything to do with sustainability. It's important to be focused on these energy aspects, but not hyper-focused.
I should point out that there was an incredible amount of building stock constructed in the three decades after the Second World War, globally and in Canada. As these buildings come of age now, we're facing in the next decade or so a tsunami of modern-era buildings that need to be sustainably rehabilitated. This is something the conservation community has started to embrace. They're starting to find ways to lead in the rehabilitation of existing buildings through the adoption of best practices.
The document has some case studies. I thought I would show you this one; it's a little closer to home. It's just two doors down; the Sir John A. Macdonald Building. It looks a little at what some of those inherently sustainable features are, and it also looks at how careful analysis and supplementary means of updating a building's performance—its comfort performance, let's say, as is the case here—are softer and less expensive ways to rehabilitate the building, and in this case, developing hybrids. There's some sort of historic and contemporary...outside and inside. I think there are a number of sustainability features that were added to the project that ran from 2008 to late 2015. I think many of those things are straightforward but it takes people to advance it quickly. It actually achieved a very high level of sustainability at an international standard. It leads me to ask the question, why don't we do a sustainable rehabilitation of 24 Sussex, bring it to an international level of showcase for Canadian technologies and know-how in sustainable rehabilitation of buildings and preservation of historic buildings and places?
The second last point is that if you were lucky enough to go to Montreal and see the exhibit last year, It's All Happening So Fast, you may have noticed a quote from Dr. David Suzuki. His view is that environmentalism is actually rooted to a deep attachment to place, so you can see that interplay between heritage conservation and environmental sustainability is right there.
Last but not least—