Building a department store powered by geothermal and solar

La Maison Simons is working to convert their stores across Canada to net-zero

The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.

Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.

The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.

Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.

Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. MORE

Rosalind Adams: Getting the numbers right on our national emissions reductions.

Image result for emissions cutsWhat needs to be next for Canada’s Green New Deal is to determine what our true and just global responsibility is with regard to emissions cuts. The GND can’t fulfill it if we don’t know it.

I would like to share what I said at the Green New Deal meeting in Picton of July 23:

Getting the numbers right on our national emissions reductions.

The thing I like best about Canada’s Green New Deal is that it recognizes the primacy of saving a livable climate and incorporates this in its first principle. Canada’s Green New Deal also recognizes that saving a livable climate is first and foremost a matter of us in the so-called developed world making drastic cuts in our carbon emissions. There is a limit to the carbon dioxide emissions we can add to the atmosphere over the next decade without crashing the climate. And let’s not forget that within 30 years, that limit is zero.

I’m going to focus, as the GND does, on the next decade.

In order to save a livable climate it is crucial that all the projects and policies we develop going forward are consistent with staying below the 2030 global carbon emissions limit. Yet the Canadian Green New Deal movement does not have a coherent idea of what this is going to take.

This is in spite of having a clear, accessible guide: the IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC. It details the catastrophic risks of going over 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures and the urgency of taking action to stay below that level. And it provides information about the global emissions reductions necessary to do this. Without going through all the math, by 2030 we need to reduce global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions by at least 51.8% from today’s level of 37.1 billion tonnes annually, to 17.9 billion tonnes annually1 or less.2

The first principle of Canada’s Green New Deal asserts that cutting our national emissions in half by 2030 meets the demands of this science.

This is ridiculous!

Canadian carbon emissions are 22 tonnes per person annually.

Halving the Canadian carbon footprint by 2030, factoring in for population growth, would give us a per capita level of about 10 tonnes. That is not consistent with the global emissions level necessary to save a livable climate of 17.9 billion tonnes annually.

What is having a per capita carbon footprint of 10 tonnes consistent with? By 2030 it is projected that the global population is going to be 8.5 billion. You can do the math in your head: 8.5 billion times 10 is 85 billion tonnes annually, which would destroy the climate.

That’s the most important thing I have to say, but I’d like to also talk about how and why cutting national emissions in half over the next decade has gotten to be the dominant meme.  MORE

Climate Emergency Declarations: How Cities Are Leading The Charge

  • By declaring a climate emergency, cities are adopting more powers to help curb the effects of climate change
  • The national government needs to declare an emergency and put resources in place to enable councils to help reduce carbon emissions

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia. GETTY

One Small Step

By declaring a climate emergency, cities are adopting more powers to help curb the effects of climate change . In New York, the city council has set new carbon reduction targets for its major buildings, Sydney have added climate considerationsin any new policy or infrastructure decisions, while Shropshire Council, a rural district in the English Midlands, has committed to being carbon-neutral by 2030. In each case, these local governments have also used their declarations as a means to exert pressure on national decision-makers. There is no single definition of a climate emergency declaration, but many see it as a drive for carbon neutrality and a mandate for further political action.

Bristol councilor Carla Denyer, who helped her city pass one of the United Kingdom’s first local climate emergency declarations in November 2018 explains:

“We are acknowledging we are in an emergency situation. The national government needs to declare an emergency and put resources in place to enable councils to help reduce carbon emissions . It’s the first step to radical action.”

Six months after Bristol made its initial declaration, the United Kingdom became the first country to announce a climate emergency and pledged to dedicate more resources towards mitigating climate change.

In many cases, smaller political structures and more power over local policy have enabled cities to make more ambitious goals for themselves than national governments. The town of Chico in California declared a climate emergency after witnessing the most destructive wildfire in state history. Chico has pledged to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 and intends to adopt many of the resolutions outlined in the Green New Deal. Rocked by a heatwave that sent temperatures soaring to 47 degrees, Paris is the latest major city to declare a climate emergency. With major emission reduction projects already in place in the French capital, the city council has expanded its environmental plans by announcing it will open a “climate academy” geared to educating the public about the risks of climate change.

Student climate activists hold banners and shout slogans during a Fridays for Future event near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K. Teenagers across the world have mobilized for climate action. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said the continent's policymakers - including environmentalists - are all failing to heed the climate crisis.
Student climate activists hold banners and shout slogans during a Fridays for Future event near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K. Teenagers across the world have mobilized for climate action. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said the continent’s policymakers – including environmentalists – are all failing to heed the climate crisis. © 2019 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP
Deal or no deal

Despite a vast array of pledges and policy changes, many declarations have been made in a more symbolic way. MORE