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B.C. government looks to assist more low-carbon building solutions

$5M CleanBC building innovation fund opens for applications
A Victoria house is disassembled by Unbuilders Deconstructors, with doors, windows and old-growth lumber recovered for remanufacturing and sale. Unbuilders received a $500,000 grant from B.C.’s building innovation fund last year. (Unbuilders photo via Facebook)

The B.C. government is hoping to find more clean building success stories like Unbuilders Deconstruction, a company that has reinvented the building demolition industry in Metro Vancouver and expanded to Vancouver Island.

Energy Minister Bruce Ralston announced the third round of the province’s CleanBC building innovation fund Thursday, with $5 million available for companies that can demonstrate reduced greenhouse gas and environmental impact in building. With B.C. already powered by hydroelectricity and leading Canada in adoption of electric vehicles, it needs to show progress on the 10 per cent of B.C.’s still-rising greenhouse gas emissions that comes from building construction and operation.

Despite more than a decade of rising carbon tax on fuels and other measures, B.C.’s population and commercial growth continues to drive emissions up. The latest inventory showed a five per cent increase for 2019, the opposite direction to the B.C. NDP’s latest emission reduction target for 2030.

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Adam Corneil, CEO of Unbuilders Deconstruction and Heritage Lumber, said the $500,000 grant his companies received last year enabled him to retool and expand the two businesses, in a “circular economy” that creates employment while reducing demolition waste.

“Our companies deconstruct buildings instead of demolish them, and we recover the materials for reuse, and we add value to them through our manufacturing to put them back into the supply chain,” Corneil said. “What we are doing is disrupting a really wasteful industry, the demolition industry, which produces 40 per cent of the total materials going to our Canadian landfills. It’s about four million tonnes of waste, on the low end, every year.”

The company’s website sells reclaimed wood from flooring to beams, much of it old-growth fir that they say is three times stronger than new lumber sold today.

The grant to Unbuilders was among 21 projects funded in 2020 with $8 million. This year’s $5 million fund has applications open until Jan. 10, 2022.

There are five categories, with four of them offering from $500,000 to $1 million per project: material, component and system manufacturing; digital technology solutions; demonstration projects and an open call category for areas such as low-carbon research, development and product testing.

A fifth category has up to $500,000 available for information sharing and disseminating projects such as Unbuilders, which Corneil said he would like to see set up in other B.C. communities.


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