• Eidelman, G. and Saxe, S. (2024) More Housing, Less Carbon: Policy Principles to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Canada’s Housing Sector. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

How can Canada build millions of new homes over the next decade to address the housing crisis, while reducing embodied carbon in housing construction to address the climate crisis?

The short answer: housing must be built differently.

Current climate plans overwhelmingly focus on reducing operational energy use in buildings (heating, cooling, and lighting) or retrofitting existing housing stock rather than on carbon emissions generated by new construction, ignoring the environmental impact of different construction methods and materials. Technical solutions are readily available; the challenge is how to translate these solutions into public policy.

This report proposes four policy principles to reduce embodied carbon in Canada’s housing sector, based on the latest academic research and lessons from leading jurisdictions in Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

  1. Focus on provincial policy, not federal or municipal. Provinces are responsible for the most important elements of housing construction and have the legislative authority, regulatory capacity, and fiscal resources to lead.
  2. Focus on sectors, not end-products. Governments must take a sectoral approach, raising standards industry-wide, not simply for individual projects.
  3. Focus on more intensive use, not reuse. Governments should update building codes and land use regulations to encourage compact infill development and multi-unit housing.
  4. Focus on building design now, not future technologies. Governments should prioritize space-efficient design that can be implemented immediately, rather than long-term, unproven technologies.