Greenrealestate: Know your territory

Green Real Estate Aug 11, 2009

green-recycle-imgAwareness of the need for more ecologically sound practices in every industry is spreading. Leadership figures in industry, politics, academia and the arts all express concern about this priority, and what was once a relatively marginal concern has taken centre stage.

While time is of the essence, actions hastily undertaken can sometimes act against themselves, and care should be taken to maximize efficiency and effectiveness when reevaluating environmental practices.

In Canada, the march toward greener practices has been unevenly distributed. Overall, the country has signed on to its obligations to reduce greenhouse gases as per the Kyoto Protocol, but has yet to implement a nationwide policy aimed at reducing overall GHG emissions. British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in North America to implement a consumer carbon tax. The Alberta tar sands remain a large source of greenhouse gas emissions. As each province has its own differing resource base and corresponding attitude toward addressing climate change, so too have approaches differed across the country.

A network of programs and co-ordination between the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government offer rebates and incentives for homeowners to upgrade their houses with more efficient and environmentally sound fixtures and appliances. Specific detailed information about these programs is invaluable to real estate professionals, because it allows them to inform prospective buyers about potential savings when evaluating whether to buy a house. They can tell sellers how they can make their house more appealing to buyers by providing information about projected utility costs.

Ecological best practices are a moving target as well, and tapping into a knowledge base that shows the pattern of previous regulation and legislation will provide agents and brokers with a better understanding of where the market is headed.

Canada has made a commitment to discuss a cap-and-trade approach to GHG emissions with the United States, and the domestic effects of any such program’s implementation will be unique to this country.

In the United Kingdom, houses are rated using the same standard as appliances according to their energy consumption and efficiency, and given a corresponding letter grade. As well, public buildings are required to display their energy consumption for visitors to peruse.

Across the ocean and on both sides of the border, specific cultural differences accrue. In Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, the electrical bill is more colloquially called the hydro bill, due to the prevalence of renewable hydroelectric dams. The specific energy mix of hydro, wind, solar, natural gas, nuclear, and coal specific to each region is different, which alters the impact of certain changes in government policy, and of changes to the home.

Real estate professionals have an opportunity to learn about these changes, and to maximize their ability to generate value from them for their clients.

Elden Freeman  B.A., M.E.S, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB). Freeman says he believes that Realtors across Canada can play an important role in educating their clients on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (416) 536-7325; elden@nagab.org.