Skyline photo of downtown Vancouver

Green Building Design & Construction

What are green buildings?

Green building is a resource-efficient method of construction and operation that produces buildings with fewer negative environmental impacts, more long-term cost savings, and healthier environments for inhabitants (refer to Canada Green Building Council’s website for more green building benefits).

Elements of green buildings include energy-efficient designs (for example, using heat pumps, which are always more than 100 percent efficient); reusing and recycling materials through salvaging, deconstruction and remanufacturing; and building close to existing infrastructure, such as bus routes and bike lanes, to reduce dependence on emission-emitting vehicles.

“Green buildings’ is probably a familiar term to many, but here in Vancouver, the idea of a green building has evolved a lot. When we say green today, we’re talking about buildings that are zero emissions, that have low- or carbon-negative materials in them, that are designed with circular components and processes, and that can be resilient in the face of climate change and other shocks and stressors.”

George Benson, Senior Manager, Economic Transformation (VEC)

Why is the Green Buildings sector important?

Buildings are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in Metro Vancouver, emitting over four million tonnes per year – roughly 25 percent of the region’s total annual emissions. Construction is also one of the region’s largest employers by sector. The need to mitigate the built environment’s impact, compounded by an increasingly urgent climate crisis, has opened powerful market opportunities for businesses that manufacture and distribute green building products.

Other key factors of importance include:

  • Buildings are where we spend approximately 90 percent of our time. A healthy economy and society relies on efficient, healthy, and affordable spaces in which to live, play, and work.
  • The air we breathe in buildings has a considerable impact on the productivity of workers. Cleaner, greener buildings can have a significant positive economic impact on businesses when designed with health in mind.
  • Taking a greener approach to construction often means sourcing materials closer to home. This helps to boost local industries, such as BC’s mass timber sector, and work towards a circular economy.
  • The superior performance and operational cost savings of green buildings make them more desirable to live and invest in than their “grey” competitors.

What are the opportunities in the green buildings industry?

  • Decarbonizing mechanical systems

    Heat pumps, drain-water heat recovery, and heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) can all decrease energy use and help buildings reach zero carbon

  • Enhancing on-site resilience

    Investments in on-site renewable energy generation or storage can keep a building running even after major disasters

  • Increasing circularity and enhancing full lifecycle value

    Using low-embodied carbon or, better yet, salvaged and reused materials can reduce costs and carbon, and enhance the public perception of a building

  • Optimizing building performance with digitalization

    Numerous digital tools, such as building information management (BIM) systems, can reduce resource use and increase tenant comfort

  • Increasing productivity through off-site manufacturing

    Off-site, modular, and industrialized construction processes can increase building speed and quality, and enhance the integration of all systems

Key stats on Vancouver’s green buildings industry

Local context

  • 187% sectoral job growth between 2010-2020 VEC, 2020
  • $3.3B Market value for green building products VEC, 2019
  • $2.2B direct, indirect, and induced GDP growth 2019 BC Retrofit Economic Impact Model

Provincial and national context

  • 9.3% Construction industry contribution to BC’s GDP BCCA, 2022
  • $23B Construction delivered annually in BC BCCA, 2022
  • 10K new jobs to come from energy-saving retrofits BCCA, 2022

Green in Vancouver: Innovation from every angle

Vancouver benefits from a long history of innovation at every stage of the green buildings value chain, including manufacturing, design, installation, maintenance, and deconstruction.

Widely regarded as a global centre of excellence in green buildings, Vancouver’s green buildings design and construction is the second-largest sector under the green economy umbrella, driven by progressive policies and international demand for local expertise.

What’s driving the Green Building sector in Vancouver?

Companies and entrepreneurs are meeting and far exceeding the City of Vancouver’s and British Columbia’s highly advanced green building standards. Vancouver has innovative, world-leading designers, builders, and manufacturers in mass timber, low-embodied carbon buildings, building deconstruction and circularity, as well as adaptive and resilient buildings.

Much of the sector’s growth is driven by programs and policies such as the City of Vancouver’s Zero-Emissions Building Plan and other regulations focusing on EV connectivity, water use, and de-constructability.

A photo of a building with large windows

Healthier, more comfortable spaces

Global green building standards such as LEED, WELL, Living Building and others work in tandem with building codes and regulations to improve and optimize conditions for health, comfort and productivity. These standards promote intentional design to improve natural light and air quality while reducing exposure to harmful and toxic building materials and pollutants.

A photo of two construction workers

Industry shift in the construction sector

Supply chain challenges, scarcity of skilled labour, and the housing crisis are factors that continue to put pressure on the construction industry. Local leaders look to methods of modularization, off-site production, engineered materials and process digitalization to improve efficiency, productivity, and profits.

Consumer interest

Residents feel the effects of climate change, which include hotter summers and more frequent wildfires. Property developers are standardizing high-performance technology in new developments to improve resident comfort and building resilience as well as to meet regulations. For example, electric heat pumps provide heating, cooling, and mechanical ventilation.

Government regulations and policies

Governments are coordinating action in policy and regulation to meet climate, affordability, and economic development objectives. Municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments have outlined clear and defined strategies to reduce the impacts of the built environment and enhance the resilience and comfort of existing buildings and new construction.

Vancouver’s Green Building sector in action

Logo of green building company Intelligent City

Intelligent City

Intelligent City – a team of architects, designers, and engineers that provides a fully integrated housing platform for mid- to high-rise mixed-use urban housing, using off-site prefabricated mass-timber, Passive House, digital design and robotic technologies.
Logo of green building company B Collective

B Collective Homes

B Collective Homes – a Passive House firm that specializes in designing, building, and retrofitting net-zero, high-performance custom homes. Its free, open-source initiative BOSS (Building Offsite Sustainable Systems) aims to provide builders across BC with a cost-effective recipe to build zero-carbon homes, targeting Passive House certification.
Logo of green building company Nexii


Nexii – Nexii designs and manufactures low carbon buildings and products to reduce the climate impact of our built environment. Their product enables the rapid assembly of high-quality buildings and infrastructure with reduced end-to-end carbon emissions, near zero waste and less disruption to the community.
logo of green company Small Planet Supply

Small Planet Supply

Small Planet Supply – a company dedicated to the supply, education, and training in the use of energy-efficient building materials and practices.
Logo of green building company Open Technologies

Open Technologies

Open Technologies – a software technology firm that helps city-shapers make data-informed decisions. Their software tools promote the market adoption of high-performance products and best practices in design and energy management.
Logo of green building company Properate


Properate - a software technology firm that works to improve local climate action with a remote assessment tool that conducts home energy evaluation at scale.
Logo of green building company Unbuilders


Unbuilders – a team of salvage experts that have made the switch from construction to deconstruction. The company takes apart existing buildings to minimize waste and upcycles the materials back into the supply chain. Unbuilders holds an impressive 99 percent salvage and recycle rate on a single-family home.
Logo of green building company Naikoon Contracting

Naikoon Contracting

Naikoon Contracting – Naikoon is an internationally recognized full-cycle construction management firm and one of the most experienced and accredited green home builders in BC. Using building information modelling (BIM) to enable virtual design and construction, they are passionate about carbon neutrality, energy performance, off-site assembly, and mass timber.

Green Building jobs and training

Drawing from two of Vancouver’s largest employment categories – construction and professional and technical services – the green buildings sector is driven by a sophisticated and expert workforce. In fact, the sector is the largest employer in Vancouver’s green economy, accounting for more than 10,300 jobs in 2020.

Organizations such as the Canada Green Building Council are working with government to update education and training to reflect low-carbon building and retrofits. In Vancouver, companies such as the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, Architecture Institute of BC, and the British Columbia Institute of Technology High Performance Building Lab provide training and support related to green building construction. Organizations such as Passive House Canada and the Canada Green Building Council advocate for high-performance building standards and work to advance green buildings and sustainable community development practices across BC and Canada.

Job opportunities are frequently posted to job boards of organizations such as the BC Centre for Women in the Trades and EcoCanada.

The following are examples of programs and training opportunities within the Greater Vancouver region with green buildings at the core of their curriculum:

VEC programs, research and resources for the Green Buildings sector

Supported by various partners, VEC has developed several sector-specific resources for green buildings companies and entrepreneurs:

High-impact investment

BC Heat Pump Technology Attraction Strategy

Builds a foundation for BC’s most important electrification technology

➔ Learn more


Copenhagen Learning Tour

Lessons and connections on the Danish approach to building decarbonization, energy efficiency, and climate adaptation

➔ Learn more

Sector Research

Green Buildings Market Forecast (2019)

Measures the impact of the BC Energy Step Code and forecasts market demand in six key product categories

➔ Learn more

Demand Forecast


Data visualization tool by OPEN Technologies designed to help industry players, capital providers and policymakers leverage Vancouver’s multibillion-dollar green buildings opportunity

➔ Learn more


Competitive Edge Webinar Series

year-long, six-part webinar series produced in partnership with the Vancouver Regional Construction Association and ZEBx that shares trends, opportunities, challenges and information within the Green Buildings industry

➔ Learn more

Action Plan

Zero Emissions Economic Transition Action Plan (ZEETAP)

ZEETAP aims to help businesses and individuals address challenges related to the just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy

➔ Download now

From our peers

  • City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Buildings plan – a plan to transition to zero-emissions buildings in all new construction by 2030
  • Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) – focuses on reducing carbon pollution from the city’s largest sources: buildings and transportation
  • BC Energy Step Code – an optional compliance path in the provincial building code that municipal governments may use to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction – one that goes above and beyond the requirements of the current BC Building Code
  • Zero Emissions Building Exchange (ZEBx) – a centre designed to rapidly accelerate the knowledge, capacity and passion for zero-emission buildings, helping the industry navigate barriers to advance the development of cost-effective, attractive zero-emissions buildings at scale
  • BC Building to Electrification Coalition – a provincial coalition of businesses, governments, educators, and others working to decarbonize and enhance resilience in BC’s built environment

Refer to Vancouver Economic Commission’s Green Buildings & Construction Resources list for a comprehensive look at local industry associations, support networks and training providers that offer resources for green building and construction businesses.