Going Green

The Construction Industry’s Impact on Canada’s Low-Carbon Commitments

Canada was one of 197 nations that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, which is a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Because of this commitment, Canada’s construction industry will be playing a key role in helping the country meet its promises by incorporating more renewable energy elements to new homes and buildings.

A recent study examines the impact that this will have on the Canadian construction industry, including the creation of millions of new jobs in the industry and on secondary businesses.

Published in July, the Jobs for Tomorrow: Canada’s Building Trades and Net Zero Emissions report was commissioned by Canada’s Building Trades Unions. In it the authors offer some insight into what going green will look like for workers in the industry.

Green Statistics

The World Green Building Council expects that new buildings will be net zero by 2050, the report authors stated. For Canada to accomplish this, the authors wrote that it will require the work of a variety of tradespeople including masons, boilermakers, pipefitters, insulators, electrical workers, glaziers, HVAC, linemen, ironworkers and more.

Demand for the changes will lead to over 1.1 million direct construction jobs by 2050, the report states. The majority of those jobs will be divided into various areas including solar power (438,350) followed by wind power (209,360), transmission line construction (200,000), tidal and wave power (109,770), hydroelectric power (105,000), nuclear power (30,360) and geothermal power (30,300).

In addition, net zero retrofits have been estimated to bring about 1.9 million in direct non-residential construction jobs. In total, the authors stated they expected 3.9 million direct jobs in the building trades and 19.8 million in related industries.

Wind power

According to the report, wind power will represent 25 per cent of the country’s energy use by 2050. This will mean that about 2,000 new wind farms will need to be constructed, leading to 209,360 construction jobs. It will also create addition jobs for meteorological technicians, electricians, etc., equaling about 237,750 person-years of employment up to 2050.

Solar power

Solar power has been expected to grow to about 10 per cent of the county’s supply over the next few decades. Canada’s current supply of solar power is at 1.5 per cent. To increase it by 8.5 per cent would create 438,350 construction jobs. It will also add 45,880 additional long term jobs. As well, given the maintenance needed to solar panels the industry will continue to grow and add more and more jobs.

Geothermal

This is a power source that is relatively untapped in Canada and as such the authors estimate it could manufacture a conservative four per cent of the county’s supply by 2050. At this rate, the industry would see 30,300 construction jobs and 5,5850 permanent operations jobs.

Tidal and wave power

This is another relatively new energy source to be developed and to increase its production to represent just five per cent of the country’s supply would be a massive undertaking, the authors stated. If achieved it would bring about 109,770 construction jobs.

Hydroelectric power

This industry, which represents a significant portion of the current supply across the county, is expected to cut back by 2040 to 51 per cent. However, the authors of the report believe that could mean hydro provides about 40 per cent of Canada’s power by 2050. This will still bring about 158,915 person-years of constriction work and 1,925 permanent operations jobs.

Nuclear power

As a power source the provinces have been looking at reducing their reliance on nuclear plants. This means the industry is expected to decline to five per cent by 2050. Most of the construction work in this industry will involve refurbishing the plants that are already in use, equaling 30,360 jobs.

Other jobs

Among other areas that the building trades will be affected include transmission line creation. Transmission line construction has been estimated to bring about 200,000 new jobs for those in the industry.

“This is a low number when considering the need for ongoing investment in Canada’s existing transmission grid, which needs replacing and upgrading,” the report authors stated.

The building up of smart communities, which includes green buildings and district energy, has also been estimated to bring 2.5 million direct construction jobs to the market. Of those, 1.9 million were estimated to be a result of green building construction and 547,750 would result from district systems.

While the majority of jobs created by expanding Canada’s public transit infrastructure will be in manufacturing, it has been projected to generate 244,950 construction jobs. The need to develop an effective and green transportation system in Canadian cities can be seen in the fact that over 80 per cent of residents are urban dwellers.

“The construction industry will be a critical factor in Canada’s ability to meet the challenges of climate change and transitioning to a net zero economy,” the authors wrote, remarking that very little research has been done on the construction industry’s role in meeting Canada’s low-carbon commitments.

Conclusion

Given that Canada ranks sixth out of 23 countries for their energy efficiency policy but remains in 18 th place when it comes to performance there is still much work needed to be done in this industry. This will be good news for construction workers as they can be sure there will be plenty of employment for the next several decades.

As well, when the construction industry is booming it has a domino effect on many other industries, which means that the economic climate in Canada should remain strong for the next few decades.