Good morning. Thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak to you today on behalf of Holcim Canada.
To provide some context, I want to share briefly with you what Holcim Canada is. Holcim Canada Inc. is one of the country's largest vertically integrated building materials and construction companies. With 3,000 employees, we manufacture cement, aggregates, and ready-mix concrete and provide construction services to many of Canada's largest infrastructure projects. Our business divisions include Dufferin Aggregates, Dufferin Concrete, and Dufferin Construction in Ontario, and the Demix brand, offering concrete, aggregates, and construction services in Quebec.
In short, we build the materials that build the world around us. Concrete, one of the key products of our vertically integrated value chain, is the second most used material in the world, second only to water. We are proud of the materials we make and the solutions we provide and of how they're able to build the foundations of society.
The manufacturing of our materials is an important contribution to the social, economic, and environmental values that our company provides to Canadians. This is an important context for today's discussion about the opportunity for private enterprises to be leaders in collaboration with not-for-profit organizations and to create value through local environmental initiatives.
As a materials company, we have an undoubted environmental impact with the production of materials. We support the role of government in holding our industry accountable via compliance mechanisms. They play a vital role in ensuring that there is a level playing field among the competitors in our industry.
We produce materials by taking the most sustainable and economically feasible approach possible. We pride ourselves in being an environmental leader in our industry and in general across the manufacturing sector. This has much to do with the way in which we manufacture our materials and how, for example, we're able to reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources through the use of secondary materials such as blast-furnace slag, a byproduct of the steel industry, to produce a cement substitute; to improve our energy efficiency through the reuse of heat generated from our process to dry our incoming materials; and to reduce our carbon footprint overall through a reduction of non-renewable resources and increased energy efficiency, but also in the substitution of coal for non-recyclable residues from other industries as fuel in our cement kilns.
That is the manufacturing element of our business. However, we are able to create an impact and provide solutions beyond our own perimeter. By this, I refer to the opportunity for our materials to be used in pervious parking lots to improve stormwater management, an increased use of concrete in structures to improve the building envelope, and inflexible roadways made of concrete to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles. This complementary view of direct and indirect impact is a core part of our business strategy and a measure of the true value of a leader in sustainable development.
There is much more we can do, as we have done, beyond our core business as a member of the communities in which we operate. We take pride in our role as a good corporate neighbour and a leader in sustainable development. Holcim Canada has built a solid reputation for its commitment to the communities where we are located, to the people, the economy, and the natural environment. We proactively look for opportunities to reduce our impact on the environment and seek partnerships with trusted local NGOs where our organizations can add value and amplify each other's efforts for the net gain of our natural environment and our communities.
I would like to share with this committee a few examples of such partnerships and how they've come to be, and the net gain that was achieved for those involved.
The first such example is a very simple one, a park. A park was being built by the municipality less than a few hundred metres from our cement facility in Mississauga. We decided to get engaged, as it was a facility that our community and our employees would use for many years to come. Our involvement was to provide materials for the facility.
The material we wanted to provide was innovative in its design. The material is a porous concrete that allows rainwater to penetrate the surface and return to the ground rather than being diverted to the storm sewer, a great innovation that reduces the need for stormwater infrastructure and surges of water being moved to a large body while the groundwater remains unreplenished.
However, there were very few installations of this material in the region. We, along with the park architects and the municipality's project team, saw this as an opportunity rather than a setback. We hosted education events for the municipal roadwork staff; visited a site where the material had been installed in order to discuss best practices; engaged industry associations to provide training to the construction crews on installation techniques; and invited numerous stakeholders to witness the installation to better understand the material.
Holcim also designed an educational interactive outdoor display that shows how this material works and what benefits it provides for the environment. This collaboration has created a unique demonstration of materials and design innovation in a setting that can be assessed by our stakeholders, including our customers and members of the community, to learn more about the material and, most importantly, see it in action.
This feature is now a destination for the local conservation authority as part of its low-impact development tour that is attended by architects, engineers, and developers in the region. As such, it provides us with a business opportunity to promote a product that our company is able to deliver with high quality, as can be seen by the interest of our potential customers during this visit. Most importantly, it demonstrates that both the municipality and the conservation authority have trust in our abilities as an organization to deliver innovative environmental solutions.
The second example is that of the Holcim Waterfront Estate, a facility where member of Parliament , who is on this committee, announced the funding that Holcim Canada and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority will be receiving for another project, which I will come back to in a moment as my third example.
The Holcim Waterfront Estate was again a collaboration between Holcim and the City of Mississauga. I will not delve into the details of this facility, aside from saying that it's a beautifully restored manor and a key piece of local heritage and history that has been revitalized using modern-day sustainable practices, for the enjoyment of generations to come. We are happy to be part of it.
The collaboration in this project demonstrated a level of trust that was built as a result of a previous park construction experience. Recycled aggregate was a primary source of stone for the project in using crushed recycled concrete rather than mined virgin aggregate. Low CO2 cement mixes were used for smaller features. A mix using recycled water and manufactured sand was used in some of the concrete designs, both offsetting the equivalent in natural quantities of material needed.
This example highlights the potential of adopting innovative environmental solutions in projects so that other stakeholders can understand the potential for such features within their own projects. Innovation, however, is not at the expense of quality and safety. All the features mentioned still appear and function in the same manner as designed.
What these projects have provided is an exceptional collaborative environment between Holcim and our non-private partners. This has led to continuous conversation with and support of one another by Holcim, the municipality, and the conservation authority. We provide access to conservation authority personnel to monitor birds, bats, fish, and shoreline conditions around our properties. These activities are part of larger studies; however, because of our open dialogue and our environmental commitments and the seriousness with which we take them, and based on the success of previous collaboration, Holcim was willing to grant access to have our properties included in these studies.
We also benefited when an opportunity for funding became available through the Government of Canada, as the information collected and, more importantly, the established collaborative relationship between Holcim and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority facilitated their support for Holcim to have nine acres of waterfront land enhanced to create a stopover and feeding area for migratory species at risk. This project clearly benefits these species, the mandate of the conservation authority, and the national conservation plan, but it also allows Holcim to further solidify our environmental leadership position with a project that independently would not be within our scope of knowledge or financial resources to complete.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to present to this committee and for the support the Government of Canada has provided for the natural enhancement project I just mentioned, on nine acres of land of our property on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, as a model of natural restoration and environmental leadership.
In summary, the collaborative nature of relationships between Holcim and our not-for-profit or public partners, in combination with our sustainability-minded business approach, has allowed us to take a leadership role in the private sector. All the examples provided have been realized within 500 metres of our Mississauga cement plant. These are local projects with local stakeholders that have a local and global impact.
We also appreciate the value we're able to bring to the table when discussing such collaboration. When there are innovative, creative organizations sitting at the table with us that are able to provide expertise in their area, the reputational value of their organizations, and an understanding of business needs, as well as the potential for funding to bridge economic gaps, then sustainable development opportunities are bound to find light.
Good morning, committee members, staff, and Mr. Zilberbrant. Greetings from Waterloo region.
I am honoured to be part of this discussion today and am very interested in this topic. Our observation as a non-profit is that the private sector is ready and willing to partner and to show leadership, not only by sometimes sponsoring our work but many times by participating in it as well.
I work for REEP Green Solutions, an environmental non-profit organization that serves the Waterloo region. We focus on energy and water sustainability. In particular, we've delivered the EnerGuide for houses home energy evaluations for 16 years. We've now been in 14,000 homes in Waterloo region and participants in our program are collectively saving 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually through their home energy upgrades.
Some of the work we're doing is cutting edge and actually similar to what you described, Mr. Zilberbrant, such as climate change adaptation to prevent flooding and to protect our streams and rivers. When a business gets involved in one of our programs as a participant or a delivery partner, they're showing leadership because together we're helping to establish a new norm of behaviour in our community. The strongest most effective programs we've seen have government policy and incentives as their foundation. In other words, you have two legs of the stool in the description of this study: the private sector and non-profit organizations. I propose that we add a third leg, and that is government policy and incentives.
I want to give you examples from our stormwater program and our energy efficiency work to make three points. First is that private sector partners strengthen our impact. Second, government policy and incentives are an essential foundation for this work, and third, these programs are good for the economy.
Let me give you a recent example involving a bank as a partner and a property management company as a participant in our RAIN program. RAIN is an ecological approach to stormwater management. We had the pleasure last week of receiving a cheque for $5,000 from RBC to support a rain garden party at a six-plex residential building in Kitchener. Rain gardens are a creative and beautiful way to reduce flood risk and protect our streams and rivers by soaking up and slowing down stormwater. Although they're not new technology, they are cutting edge in terms of public adoption.
The private sector leadership in this case is twofold. One is the property owner doing something new and different to solve a flooding problem on his property, and the other is RBC showing their private sector leadership by helping our organization turn this single action into a living classroom in the community so that neighbours can come to our training session and a work party.
RBC receives positive recognition and the staff feel part of making their community better. I can say that this was really clear when we went to get the cheque. All the staff had blue T-shirts on and there were giant blue raindrops suspended from the ceiling with tips on how to conserve water. They were really proud of what their company was doing for the community.
What really made this project possible was the third leg of this stool: government funding and an incentive. Our work in stormwater management began with funding from the Province of Ontario and it continues now under contract with the municipalities. The local government also provided an incentive of $4,000 to the property owner to encourage uptake of this kind of project so that it can become a public demonstration of innovative stormwater management practices.
The third leg in the stool is really the first one. The government's role is very important in these partnerships to steer us to the future we want for our country and for our communities. We need good public policy based in evidence to provide a framework for private and non-sector action, and incentives to help put these policies into practice.
At REEP we often work with small and medium-sized businesses. If I look at it from their perspective, I see that they want to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the community. They want to increase their sales. They want to be responsible corporations, and sometimes, they also want to solve a problem on their property that we can help them with. In all of these cases, they're looking for ways that their goals intersect with the public good.
We want the public good to be well defined. Otherwise, we risk public sector investment going to activities that look good for public relations reasons but don't contribute to the end results we want for our country and our community.
One of the best examples I've seen of the private sector, the non-profit sector, and the government working together has been the ecoENERGY home energy efficiency program. The federal government provided the financial incentive to homeowners to spur them to action. They based it on a third party audit to benchmark and verify the results. REEP was one of the many service providers for that audit. A number of them were non-profit also. Renovation contractors were essential additional private sector actors providing the retrofits for these homes.
We worked closely with renovation contractors during that time. All of us were really proud to be part of a government-led initiative that we brought our local strength to. The contractors were key partners who helped spread the word about the program and spur uptake. They also benefited economically. We think somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million would have been spent in our community to implement those retrofits over the years. We really cannot underestimate the economic value of these programs and the jobs they create and sustain.
The ecoENERGY incentive ended in 2011, and there hasn't been anywhere near the retrofit activity in our community there was before. At REEP we used to do 100 energy evaluations a month. Now we barely do that in a year. It doesn't mean there aren't home energy retrofits happening, but there really isn't anything to spur homeowners who are putting it off to do it now, or to move it up higher in their priority list, or to access those people who aren't planning to do it already.
We've really looked for ways ourselves to encourage home energy retrofits in the absence of the incentive. For example, we've talked to our electric and natural gas utilities about working together, and in some ways, we are. But what we've heard from them is that they're really focusing on the commercial sector rather than the residential sector, because that's where they have the easiest gains and the greatest impact.
Some homeowner-targeted programs continue in some areas, but they're not able to have the impact the federal incentive was able to have. This demonstrates to me the importance of the federal government being at the table to provide a framework that makes sure key sectors or issues are not left out because they're harder to address. If you look at the residential sector, it accounts for 50% of our natural gas consumption in the Waterloo region and 30% of our electricity consumption. That's a really significant sector that we want to address.
I'll give you one more example of private sector leadership, in this case spurred by a Natural Resources Canada call for proposals. REEP is partnering with two businesses in the Waterloo region, Mindscape Innovations and Scaled Purpose, for a proposal to NRCan to encourage home energy retrofits by providing both a retrofit coach to help people through the process and innovative community-based financing to help address the capital cost.
We are proud to partner with these two local businesses, and very pleased that we may have the support of the federal government to provide this pilot, but I know that each gain and every retrofit will be hard won, because there really isn't anything like a federal incentive to motivate action by homeowners. If this approach had the support of a federal incentive to build on, then it could really fly. I feel sometimes like we're trying to build something in mid-air. We really need a foundation for the residential sector from the federal level to make things happen.
My conclusion is that the third leg of the stool is really critical. The private sector is ready and willing to partner, and their input really makes the impact much stronger. We can make that generosity and corporate innovation count most when there's a solid public policy foundation based in evidence that steers us forward together. Then we as non-profits and our private sector partners have something to build on. We're part of something bigger than ourselves, working together not only for our community but for our country, for our country's climate action plan. It becomes an economic stimulus and an environment benefit rolled into one powerful package.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. I'm looking forward to the discussion.
Well, I'd be glad to and I did have that in the text of my remarks but I cut it out, because I knew I had to speak more slowly for the translators. So thank you for asking.
The REEP House for Sustainable Living is a 100-year-old house in the heart of Kitchener that has been renovated to reduce its energy consumption by 86%. It's one of very few renovated homes that are LEED platinum certified in Canada. It is part of our efforts to continue to encourage home owners to retrofit their homes by showing them in practice some of the things that we recommend in our home energy evaluations.
One of the things that's the most popular is the insulation room. We have a whole wall with different kinds of insulation displayed with the drywall removed so you can see each different type. We explain the R-value and the cost and the impact, and some of the environmental implications of each type.
As you pointed out, Stephen, there is a really neat combination of people who came together to make the REEP House possible, starting with the federal government grant during the stimulus funding time, and matched with provincial grants and local government, and then many private sector partners came together with us to do this.
I can mention, for example, Reitzel Insulation, a company in Kitchener that we had often worked with in the ecoENERGY program. They insulated the whole house for a value of about $16,000 as an in-kind contribution to the project. There are a number of other contractors who either provided lower prices for us or things at cost, or even outright contributions, to make that project happen.
Actually, Madam LeBlanc....
Sorry, but we're trying to be fair. Madam LeBlanc isn't here all the time and it's nice to have her here, but I do have a couple of questions, so thanks.
I want to start with Ms. Patterson. You said some really intriguing things in your testimony. Where do I start?
I want to explore this idea of a retrofit coach that you talked about. Also, I can't remember which organization it was, but you talked about another organization starting to focus on the commercial side because they felt they could get there and make some progress on the commercial side versus the residential side.
All of that is to say that I have a long background in energy efficiency. I was part of the community group of stakeholders for the EGLIH, the EnerGuide for low-income households, program that never actually saw the light of day. I'm very familiar with EnerGuide and ecoENERGY—I don't care what people call it—retrofits that are supported by the federal government.
When you talked about the need for a retrofit coach and about moving to the commercial instead of residential side, it really made me think about why people aren't just doing this. Why do they need an organization to help them? Why do they need incentives? Why do they need a retrofit coach? Even for the commercial side, you always hear this line that if businesses can save money, they're going to do it. But they're not. They're not engaging in energy efficiency without the help of incredible organizations on the ground. Why do we need these energy efficiency organizations?
Okay, there are a couple of parts there. I'll start with the residential, but I have some observations on the small business side also.
On the residential side, I guess one of the first things you learn when you enter this kind of work on energy efficiency and, broadly, environmental action is that human beings don't make decisions logically all the time or even often. There are many things that make us act otherwise.
Our work is rooted in something called community-based social marketing. The idea is that together we're creating a new social norm and that sometimes social norms are the things holding us back. When we don't see anybody else doing something, it feels weird, and we feel out of place. So, even though it's logical to do something, there could be a number of barriers that prevent us from doing it.
When we look at home energy retrofits, we've identified maybe three top barriers. One is the cost, especially the upfront capital cost, even though you know you're going to be paying it back over time.
A second one is knowledge, knowing what to do. That's where the home energy evaluation is really key. Many people think that if they replace their windows, they're going to solve the problem. One of the things we can let them know is that a window has a very low R-value. You can increase the R-value by making it double-paned or triple-paned or by adding features, but for the money you're going to invest in replacing the windows on your home, you're going to get a very low energy-efficiency return compared with what you would get if you spent the same amount money on insulating your home. At REEP House, the value of the insulation was $16,000. We probably spent that much on replacing the windows. The insulation probably took us 75% of the way to our 86% reduction in energy. The windows are a very small part of that. For the same cost, there was a really different impact. That's where knowledge can help people. People feel ill-equipped to make those decisions.
A third factor is trust. That's where a third-party organization, a trusted non-profit like REEP, can help people make decisions and choose among different options. People are a little leery of contractors. They might have one product they're pushing forward. People don't know how to compare quotes. The home energy evaluation is designed to help with a lot of that. We saw an opportunity to go further in creating this concept of a retrofit coach. We're basing it on something we heard about in the Washington, D.C., area. Really, what's missing is the federal incentive on our side, because in Washington, D.C., the coach was a very successful thing that they were able to have while it was funded. They really saw the coach almost as an app, which sat on top of a number of different state, federal, and local incentives along with utility incentives. The coach was helping people to navigate, to apply for, to qualify for, and to understand all of those things as well as to understand the retrofit work they needed to do and the different options.
I hope that goes part of the way to answering why we don't do what might seem logical.
On the commercial side, I think especially for small and medium-sized businesses it's day-to-day survival. Running an environmental organization, I can relate. I feel that we're like a small business. It's hard to stick your neck up long enough to see if there's some other option. Often cool new things like porous concrete cost more or you don't know about them. We need help to make those new things cost-neutral and attractive to people.
The three dozen businesses I talked about, which are taking part in our RAIN program, are learning about things like permeable paving, porous concrete, rain gardens, etc. We're offering them a free on-site visit during which we will walk around the property with them to show them the opportunities they have to prevent flooding and to institute those kinds of things.
We're making it cost-neutral just to get the information.
I'll leave it there for now.
If I have some time, I will.
I want to begin with an apology to Mr. Zilberbrant for the loaded question and an apology to Ms. Patterson for having the words put into her mouth that the government just doesn't seem to want to put money on the table.
I know, Ms. Patterson, that you would not say such an uninformed and unintelligent thing, particularly when you are here talking about the application you've made to NRCan for $120,000 funding and when you mentioned the money that the government provided to assist you with the demonstration house and when you mentioned the benefits that occurred as a result of the ecoENERGY efficiency program.
You and I both would like that program restored, but you and I both know that it would be inaccurate to say the government doesn't seem to want to put money on the table, and I regret that politicians often lose sight of the fact that folks like you are here to actually tell us about what you're doing. So my apologies to you for that.
Ms. Patterson, I want to ask you specifically about the very interesting fact that you've mentioned which was, I think, that 21,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually are avoided in Waterloo region as a result of your work. I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about how much if any of those efforts are replicated across Canada. Although I'm very proud of our efforts in Kitchener specifically, I wonder if you have connections who would tell us whether there are similar organizations accomplishing similar good work in other communities across Canada, because if I take the 21,000 tonnes and multiply it by the number of communities in which it could be implemented, it comes to a considerable difference. Can you help me with that?