If you’ve recently purchased a house, windows, light fixtures or appliances for your place, you’ve likely heard the words energy-efficiency tossed around many times. More and more materials on the market are being made with the environment in mind. The same goes for the way dwellings are being built. Let’s examine what’s in store for future builds – your future home may be an energy-producing one.
Like the old axiom says: “Build tight, ventilate right.” Energy-saving houses were novel a decade ago, but today, a great many new builds are exceedingly environmentally-friendly compared to their built-to-code counterparts.
An energy-efficient home? How does that work?
An energy-efficient product and energy-efficient home are two very different things. The products we purchase for our home are designed to conserve energy, but the home or condo itself? Leave that up to EnerQuality – launched in 2005, this organization’s principles are rooted in designing and delivering green building programs to the residential construction industry. Its mission? To transform the housing market in Ontario into the most energy-efficient and sustainable one in the world. So far, it’s kept its promise.
- 32 percent of newly built Ontario homes were environmentally friendly;
- These homes are energy-efficient and in some cases, energy producing.
If a home builder were to follow the principles put forth by EnerQuality, these are the areas of the home that would be constructed with an energy-efficient framework in mind:
- Water heaters
- Electrical equipment/lights
- Heating systems
- Energy-efficient appliances
- Proper insulation from the outside of the home – walls, attics, basements, windows.
Corey McBurey, President of EnerQuality, says Ontario’s current building code – already one of the top ranked in North America –uses the EnerGuide Rating System of zero – which means a house is severely inefficient to the point of leaking air, having no insulation and consuming gross amounts of energy – to 100, which means it’s producing its own renewable energy. The R-2000 rating system, for example, starts at 86.
“We’ve gone from labeling under 100 homes to labeling a full third of homes built in the province,” said McBurney. “We build some of the best houses in the world here in Ontario because our building codes, (even) the base standard, are very high. That happens through commitment and innovation. Look at how far we’ve come in 10 years; we’re building above and beyond.”
Why buy an energy-efficient home?
In addition to lower energy bills and a clear(er) conscience, energy-efficient homeowners live in more durable homes. But McBurney credits builders, not consumers, as the driving force. The industry as a whole accepts green building without apprehension, opening the door to solving overarching issues of sustainability and affordability for average Canadians.
“Without question, this program has been driven by the builder industry,” said McBurney. “The Ontario Home Builders Association encourages this stuff. And consumers are the beneficiaries.”
What will it cost you?
Before you decide to go green, here’s what you need to know from a cost-perspective*:
- An energy-efficient home can cost up to 10 percent more than a conventional house.
- The initial upfront cost is offset by the long-term cost savings you’ll experience as you live in the home.
- If energy use can be reduced by up to 60 percent, your savings will pay off that initial 10 percent cost investment within 5 to 8 years.
Who’s doing it right?
EnerQuality recently held the EnerQuality Awards, recognizing excellence in green building. The usual culprits like Matamy Homes – whose founder, Peter Gilgan, was inducted into the EnerQuality Hall of Fame – and The Minto Group were recognized, with the latter claiming three awards – including Ontario Green Builder of the Year for a sixth time – for its Longbranch master-planned community.
Longbranch is comprised of 350 units spread across 11 urban townhomes that reduce energy consumption by using individual metering, low-flow toilets and showers, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, drought-tolerant landscaping, Energy Star appliances, drain water heat recovery for upper units, and increased insulation and air tightness for stellar envelopes. Three hundred and thirty-six units are Energy Star-certified, and the remaining 112 units are LEED-certified.
“Building green ties a lot into quality construction and offering value,” said Natascha Pieper, Director of Marketing at The Minto Group. “These Longbranch units are all built well above Ontario’s building code. Green ties very strongly into the construction of our homes – insulation, carpets, heating and cooling systems – and we like to walk our customers through that. First-time buyers especially want to know what they’re getting for their money, and we like to give them a breakdown of the money they’re saving.”
Speaking of Minto, here’s a video that talks about how an energy-efficient home is constructed:
“They don’t build them like they used to,” said McBurney. “Thank God.”
If you’re not planning on buying a new place anytime soon, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your current home more eco-friendly. Consult our database of environmental contractors who can assist with making your home more energy-efficient.
About the Author: Neil Sharma is a freelance writer.
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*Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation