January Cool Drinks: Home Energy Efficiency Tools – What Value Do They Offer?
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At the first Cool Drinks of 2015, Tom-Pierre Frappe-Seneclauze and Veronica Owens discussed two tools used to promote more energy efficient homes in our communities – energy labelling and green building rating systems. Following their introduction, Michael van der Laan from the City of North Vancouver highlighted specific initiatives that the city has recently instituted to encourage more energy efficient commercial and residential buildings locally. A summary of the evening’s presentations is provided below.
Tom-Pierre Frappe-Seneclauze, Advisor at the Pembina Institute
Tom-Pierre reviewed a popular Canadian energy labelling tool for homes – Natural Resources Canada’s Energuide program. It measures the energy efficiency of homes according to how they are built rather than actual energy consumption. A Certified Energy Advisor conducts an assessment, which includes recommendations for upgrades in a report, and provides a label to place in the house that indicates its energy efficiency rating (potential value of 0-100). The rating considers the efficiency of appliances and water and space heating among other categories.
The labels inform future buyers and realtors of the energy efficiency level of various homes when viewing them, and therefore enable people to compare homes and make better choices. To enhance the value of this program and provide broader community benefit, full public disclosure is needed such as a registry or database that lists the energy efficiency of homes. Data reports that are normally only provided to home owners could also be forwarded to municipalities to help them develop more programs that reduce energy consumption in buildings. Mandatory use of energy labelling would also increase the utilization of this tool. Some government jurisdictions have already adopted it, including most European countries, some American states and cities, Nova Scotia, BC, Vancouver, and Whitehorse. In fact, the UK’s Energy Performance Certificate has been highly successful with 50% of dwellings having achieved one by 2014. Thus, further government legislation would make this tool even more valuable.
Veronica Owens, Green Building Manager for Light House Sustainable Building Centre
A wide variety of prescriptive and performance based green building rating systems exist in today’s market. Well known examples include BREEAM (the original system), BOMA Best, Green Globes, LEED, and Built Green. All create more sustainable buildings that may be net zero or carbon neutral too. According to Veronica, LEED and Built Green are the more popular rating systems, while Living Building Challenge is a new visionary system that is becoming more prevalent.
LEED and Built Green both have 4 rating levels, which are based on points given for pre-requisites met during the pre-design, design, construction and occupancy of a residential or commercial building. These pre-requisites fall within several categories including sustainable sites, innovation in design, materials, water efficiency or conservation, energy system, indoor environmental quality or air quality, regional priority, and business practices. Living Building Challenge is similar but it has only 2 certification levels and its categories are slightly different. While it considers traditional ones like energy, water, materials and health, it adds equity and beauty.Another interesting tool that was discussed as a means of reducing energy use in homes was the design of a passive house. This type of home usually lowers energy consumption by 90%.
According to Veronica, green buildings offer numerous benefits to home owners, commercial property management companies and the broader community. They can enhance accessibility for residents with physical challenges, improve health and address sick building syndrome with better air quality, reduce waste and materials, foster better construction practices, increase water and energy efficiency, enhance amenities for the neighbourhood, reduce operating costs and raise resale value, and increase tenant productivity and occupancy levels.
Michael van der Laan, Green Buildings Research Analyst with the City of North Vancouver
In recent years, the City of North Vancouver instituted a number of initiatives to help “green” residential and commercial buildings within its jurisdiction. In response to the provincial government’s amendment to the 2012 BC Building Code that focuses on energy efficiency, the city decided to align its energy benchmarking with the new code and adopted a green building zoning bylaw. The bylaw encourages more floor space for “green systems”, solar or green roofs, greenhouses in backyards, active design for better ventilation, improved wall performance, and waste and material diversion.
Besides this tool, the city has offered home energy rebates in partnership with BC Hydro. Home owners can receive financial incentives for improving their insulation, ventilation, and water and space heating. Similarly, incentives have been given to occupants of multi-unit residential strata buildings for in-suite and common area upgrades that increase energy efficiency following energy assessments. To encourage home energy labelling, the city has also endorsed the Energuide program since 2011 and seen many homes receive this label. New homes will likely use the Energy Star program.