This blog explores changes in the energy industry from an insider’s perspective as it transitions from the old centralized utility model to the new paradigm of distributed generation.
This blog was previously called Inside the Housing Evolution and focused on energy efficient homes. Ultimately, it’s all linked. Soon, every building will have the potential to generate, store, and sell energy. Welcome to the era of the transactive grid – the greatest shift the electricity sector has seen in over 100 years!

July 13, 2010 2 Comments

Green Building Ottawa Conference “Retrofit – Sustainability for the Future”

The June issue of Ottawa Construction News had an article on a presentation I gave at Carleton University’s Green Building Ottawa Conference.  (Actually, the article attributes the quotes to Michael Sachs, not Matthew, but trust me it’s me!). The conference was put on by The Carleton University School of Architecture & Urbanism and the Canada Green Building Council to “explore the complex relationship between sustainability and the built environment”.

As part of the program, I was invited to take part in their closing panel discussion on the policies needed to encourage more sustainable building projects.  They wanted to have a builder on the panel to represent the developer perspective, and my background as a consultant working on government policy gave me a unique perspective on where policy sometimes fails to create the intended change.

The article focuses on my comments, since it is a construction industry newspaper, but I wanted to draw attention to some of the ideas brought forward by the other members of the panel.  I shared the panel with Dan Leeming, the founding partner of The Planning Partnership, Jane Welsh, the Acting Project Manager for Environmental Planning with Toronto’s City Planning Division, and David Miller, the Manager of the Environmental Sustainability Branch in the Community Sustainability Department here in Ottawa.

Jane and David have both had tremendous success in bringing attention to sustainability issues in a municipal context.  In his presentation, David acknowledges that Ottawa is far behind Toronto in terms of sustainability planning policies, but at the same time he pointed to some of Ottawa’s less publicized successes, such as the Green Building Promotion Pilot Program that he initiated to promote energy efficient retrofits of existing commercial, institutional and multi-residential buildings.

For me, this conference really hit home the fact that developers and municipalities have to work together to really move “from policy to practice”. The government cannot affect urban planning significantly without getting developers on board, and developers can’t integrate their community planning with public transportation and infrastructure without city involvement.

Urbandale has had a difficult time working with the city to provide light rail service to our community of Riverside South, which would be a huge step in developing a more sustainable community.  My hope is that the city will work with Urbandale to address these critical public transportation needs.  We have a tremendous opportunity to build new areas with more creative and intelligent designs and it would be a shame if we miss this opportunity because of the difficulties with developers and municipalities working together.

Posted by Matthew

2 Responses to "Green Building Ottawa Conference “Retrofit – Sustainability for the Future”"

  1. Canada’s Going Green Initiative is a real inspiration. I wish all countries will follow their examples.

  2. gary martin says:

    I was at the closing plenary at the conference you refer to. I watched David’s face as you pointed out that certain (in this case provincial) government incentives for green features get tangled in bureaucratic red tape. I could see he knew exactly what you were talking about! Lots of work to do on development and regulation…


Please note: Comments should be related to the above blog post.
All other comments will be removed.

Name (required)

Email Address (required - will not be published)




Matthew Sachs


  • COO of Peak Power since July 2016
  • General Manager of Urbandale Construction (May 2008 – Oct 2014)
  • Vice-Chair R-2000 Renewal Committee
  • Member of Energy Star Technical Advisory Committee
  • Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Green Committee
  • Recipient of Canadian Homebuilder’s Association 2009 R-2000 Builder of the Year Award
  • Participant in Natural Resources Canada’s Technology Roadmap for Sustainable Housing
  • Energy Consultant with Marbek Resource Consultants (Feb 2002 – May 2006)


Peak Power is a Microgrid project development company focused on delivering innovative solutions to offset the most expensive hours of electric demand. We specialize in optimizing the revenue streams from energy storage, advanced building automation, and renewable technologies for customer sited and utility scale projects. Please visit