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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 13 / Spring 2015


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Better Builder Magazine brings together premium product manufactures and leading builders to create better differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. The magazine is published four times a year.

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 13 / Spring 2015

  1. 1. 1 BETTER BuilderMAGAZINE the builder’s source Issue 13 | Spring 2015 Future Proofing Smart Strategies to Secure a Sustainable Future Solterre Design – Great Green Architecture Are You Future Proofed? High Performance HRVs and Controls Net Zero Houses Raise Many Questions Right Sizing Matters! Net Zero! Are We Ready? Publicationnumber42408014 In this Issue An armillary sphere created by John Little
  2. 2. A b r e a t h o f f r e s h a i r . MAX SERVICE All mechanical and electrical components are accessible from the front of the unit. Heating coil and fan/motor slide out for easy service. One of the most extensive warranties in the business:1-year parts & labour,2-years on parts only,where applicable. MAX COMFORT With the increased efficiency of this optional Electronically Commuted Motor (ECM), homeowners will be free to cycle air continuously with a minimal increase in electricity cost. Continuous fan operation helps improve filtration,reduce temperature variations,and helps keep the air clear of dust and allergens – making your customers’ homes more comfortable. Mini Ducted Hi-Velocity Air Handling System Optional Prioritizing of Comfort Levels with Energy Savings MAX SPACE SAVER The MAXAIR fan coil is so compact that it fits anywhere:laundry room,attic,crawl space,you can even place it in a closet. It can be installed in new or existing homes. It takes less than 1/3 of the space of a conventional heating and air conditioning unit. MAX ENERGY SAVINGS Energy savings,temperature control and comfort levels are achieved in individual levels of the home by prioritizing the requirements.This is achieved by installing optional space thermostats. If any area calls for heating or cooling, the individual thermostat allows the space it serves to achieve optimum comfort and still maintain continuous air circulation throughout the home. This method of prioritizing is a great energy savings measure while offering an increased comfort level to the home owner. FLEXAIRTM DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM MAX FLEXIBILITY The supply outlets can be placed in the wall, ceiling or floor. Each unit has four choices of locations for the return air connections. The FLEXAIR™ insulated 2½" supply duct will fit in a standard 2"x 4" wall cavity. Can be mounted for vertical or horizontal airflow. Can be combined with humidifiers,high efficiency air cleaners or ERVs / HRVs. Snap-together branch duct and diffuser connections. MAX ELECTRICAL SAVINGS ECMs are ultra-high-efficient programmable brushless DC motors that are more efficient than the permanently split capacitor (PSC) motors used in most residential furnaces.This is especially true at lower speeds used for continuous circulation in many new homes. 1-800-453-6669 905-951-0022519-578-5560613-966-5643 416-213-1555 877-254-4729905-264-1414 For distribution of Air Max Technologies products call www.airmaxtechnologies.com209 Citation Drive, Units 5&6, Concord, ON L4K 2Y8, Canada Airmax ad with Prioritizing AMT 12430 AD FPG 09_HR.pdf 1 2013-04-18 8:46 AM
  3. 3. Feature story 16 Solterre – Shape, Study and Share By Alex Newman Inside this issue 02 Publisher’s Note: Staying Ahead of the Curve by john godden 03 The Bada Test: New Code for 2017 – Are You Future Proofed? by Lou Bada 04 Industry News: Green Building Arenas by Sonya Persram 06 Industry Expert: High Performance HRVs and Controls by Gord Cooke 08 Builder News: How a Professional Energy Rating Industry Can Help Future Proof Homes by Patricia Duffy 11 Site Specific: The Comfort Conundrum By Michael White 13 Industry News: Net Zero Houses Raise Many Questions by Michael Lio 23 Builder News: Mike Martino – Right Sizing Matters by Alex Newman 27 From the Ground Up: Net Zero! Are We Ready? by Doug Tarry 29 Site Specific Too: Rosehaven Hits 100 By Alex Newman 32 The Plane View: Fun, Future, Facts By Better Builder Staff BETTER BuilderMAGAZINE the builder’s source 1 13 Issue 13 | Spring 2015 | Issue 13 | SPRING 2015 23 27 3 photo:www.shutterstock.comphoto:www.shutterstock.comPhoto:HumeMediaInc.Photo:DougTarryhomes Cover (Armillary Sphere): Jennifer Stewart Background:
  4. 4. 2 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 Publisher Better Builder Magazine, 63 Blair Street, Toronto, ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 fax 416-481-4695 Better Builder Magazine is a sponsor of Publishing Editor John B. Godden Managing Editor Wendy Shami To advertise, contribute a story, or join our distribution list, please contact Feature WriterS Tracy Hanes, Alex Newman proofreading Janet Dimond Creative Robert Robotham Graphics This magazine brings together premium product manufacturers and leading builders to create better, differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. Publication number 42408014 Copyright by Better Builder Magazine. Contents may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and assumed to be original work. Better Builder Magazine cannot be held liable for any damage as a result of publishing such works. Trademark disclaimer All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. Undeliverable Mail Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street, Toronto, ON M4B 3N5. Better Builder Magazine is published four times a year. I nnovation requires two things – forward thinking and action. Staying ahead of the curve is a statistical term referring to a position on the bell curve. The top of the curve represents the median average result. Being ahead of the curve represents the top percen- tile of results and means someone pos- sesses advanced skills or understanding that sets them apart. Looking to product devel- opment, leaders and innovators are at the front (left) of the curve, taking risks to create new products and services. Early adopters follow on the curve, selecting products and generating a delivery channel creating demand for these new products. This movement continues until the early majority joins to reach 50 per cent market share, the status quo, at the top of the curve. Innovation is one thing, but success in the marketplace is another. A classic example of the adoption life cycle comes from the automo- bile sector. Honda was a trendsetter and risk taker with the Insight in 1999, a car that was incredibly fuel efficient, getting 70 mpg. The engineers created a small spaceship-looking car that turned out to be too “alien” for mainstream drivers. Only 13,200 of them were sold before production ceased in 2006. On the other hand, Toyota as an early adopter introduced the Prius. This car looks similar to other compacts, but is much more fuel efficient, getting 40 mpg. The Prius sold 400,000 in the first seven years of offering. At the 2015 RESNET Building Perfor- mance Conference in San Diego, Calif., almost all the taxi rides I took were in Priuses. In residential housing the growing trend has been to build the biggest house at the cheap- est price. Low subsidized energy prices have offered little incentive to change this trend. Builders who are early adopters of energy efficiency have learned to sell energy-efficient features at a profit by communicating the asso- ciated future benefits to homeowners who will enjoy increased comfort and economic savings. Net zero houses are being introduced to the market largely as demonstration homes. The upgrade costs to reach net zero range between $40,000–$100,000 depending how much photovoltaic (PV) is on top. Remember the success of the Toyota Prius – sell and market to people something they recognize. Near Zero houses look like other houses, but perform 50 per cent more efficiently than the building code minimum, with associated upgrade costs between $20,000–$25,000. The cost increase can be easily absorbed by homeowners as a slight increase in monthly payments on a mortgage over 20 years. This issue of Better Builder features Solterre Design. The armillary sphere on the cover is the basis for Solterre’s logo, emblematic of the sun and earth. One of their catchphrases is “build better, not bigger” and you know we like that. What is novel is their emphasis on study, test and monitor to find out what really works. Try it, test it and then share it to educate. The definition of a net zero home is a very important discussion. Policymakers are using it without clarity. If it is a goal, then it needs to be definable and achievable. You will read different perspectives here in our spring issue. As an innovator, I have been on the bleeding edge of the curve. Where are you? Are you being selective and forward thinking in your business? If so, this could mean you are living in or design- ing and/or building a Near Zero home. Another important question – Do you park an electric car in your driveway? To stay ahead of the curve, we must truly figure out what is driving us. BB Staying Ahead of the Curve publisher’snote By Joh n Go dden 2 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015
  5. 5. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 C onsultations with stakehold- ers are currently underway for the next cycle of Ontario Building Code (OBC) amendments for 2017. Of particular interest to builders will be the revisions to SB-12 for energy efficiency in new homes. Although there will likely be many changes to the code affecting build- ers, SB-12 changes always seem to get a lot of attention. Increases in energy efficiency will theoretically be a 15 per cent improvement over the current SB-12, which is effective until the end of 2016. Builders in Ontario already involved in the ENERGY STAR for New Homes program will already be forearmed in dealing with any changes to SB-12 for 2017. Proponents of the ENERGY STAR program have correctly pointed out that involvement in the program gives you a leg up on future code revisions. This philosophy, whereby ENERGY STAR informs the code and the code benchmarks ENERGY STAR, and where they are juxtaposed, has served a purpose – pushing and pulling energy efficiency in new homes forward. In my opinion, ENERGY STAR works best as a voluntary program (as it was origi- nally intended) and not as a mandatory program (as it has become in many jurisdictions), for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, code regulations are generally well considered and vetted by many stakeholders from various disciplines with a fair, practical and balanced approach in mind. In my experience the code consultation process, and the result- ing changes, have been reasonable. The goal of achieving a balanced approach and outcome for all stakeholders, when free from undue political intervention, has yielded the intended results. Nothing is perfect. The timing, imple- mentation and interpretation of code revisions at times have been chal- lenging. There are some who believe the code has gone too far and others who say it hasn’t gone far enough. This is usually an indication we are where we should be. I believe the new homebuilding industry in Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has much to be proud of, and our minimum standards are quite robust. What has also become abundantly clear is that involvement in energy efficiency programs such as ENERGY STAR and other sustainability initia- tives such as Better Than Code in new housing by builders yield great advan- tages when it comes to getting ahead of the curve regarding regula- tion. It prepares and informs builders of the inevitable changes that will come. Furthermore, it prepares and informs builders allowing them to participate intelligently in the code consultation process, and in dealing with individual municipal governments on energy performance and sustainability guidelines. A proac- tive approach is very essential in our industry today. After all, being at the table is important, otherwise you may end up on the menu. BB Lou Bada is construction & contracts manager for Starlane Homes. thebadatest By L ou Ba da There are some who believe the code has gone too far and others who say it hasn’t gone far enough. New Code for 2017 – Are You Future Proofed?
  6. 6. | Issue 13 | Spring 20154 I n addressing risk mitigation in green building sectors, a recurring requirement is the need to confirm that a building is indeed green, and to mitigate risk in case it is not as green as promoted. While greenwashing is an important issue, and many are deeply involved in addressing what defines green – whether sustainable, regenerative or other descriptors are optimal, as well as what rating systems may be preferred – neverthe- less a question still remains. Whatever happened to the focus and perplexity among green building advocates not so many years back as to why con- ventional property upgrades or new construction were not green? Green building benefits have been quantified by Greg Kats1 and oth- ers such as Nils Kok and Matthew Kahn2 as including water and energy savings as well as benefits to health and employment, resiliency and sale price; savings on external costs to society like individual and govern- ment health care costs, stormwater management, extensions of the life of energy, water, wastewater and storm- water3 infrastructure; and contribu- tions to mitigating and adapting to climate change. With benefits becom- ing increasingly quantifiable over the years and clearly mitigating many risks, it is brought home that there are direct risks4 and those related to opportunity costs5 associated with not being green. So, how did the industry shift from fundamentally querying why conventional builders/owners were not incorporating building green- ing, to being on the “prove it is green” defensive with respect to risk mitiga- tion? There are a number of possible reasons for the morphed focus, one of which is discussed here. The context in which I am consider- ing this strategy is the conventional industrynews By S on ya P e rsra m Sensei Brad Jones (r) and his Karate Do practitioners sitting in meditation in his Newmarket, Ont. dojo. The facility is being greened by 5th degree black belt Jon Juffs of CCI Group. photo:KeithFranklin,usedwithpermission Green Building Arenas
  7. 7. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 building sector’s approach to green buildings, i.e. groups within the sector may have felt threatened by the rise in popularity of green buildings. We know that for conventional practitio- ners to become proficient in green buildings, there may be a cost incre- ment for building green, as well as costs for practitioners to learn about green methods and rating systems and obtaining green products. In many jurisdictions there may be more regulatory barriers experienced to doing green buildings or retrofits than conventional projects, which therefore impacts practitioners’ time and bud- gets.6 Green buildings could also have enormous impact on the profitability of manufacturers/distributors of prod- ucts used in conventional buildings, but not in green ones. A helpful concept in understanding strategic approaches is yin-yang – a balance between seeming opposites. For example, there is a tendency of many in the green build- ing sector to be facilita- tive, supportive and gentle (yin), which may not be the best approach with more aggressive (yang) organizations or sectors within organizations. We must at least be aware of the impacts of and how to deter or address others’ potentially nonfacilitative or down- right aggressive actions, and consider the possibility that those actions were designed to divert attention or confuse the attackers’ own flaws. It may also be useful to parse actions related to the green building sectors into elements of strategy. A concept from a 1645 work for samu- rais called The Book of Five Rings: A Classic Text on the Japanese Way of the Sword by Miyamoto Musashi (Shambhala, new edition 2005), which has been used for decades by busi- ness strategists, is relevant for this discussion. “Ken no sen,” a method to forestall the enemy by attacking first,7 is described here: When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, fore- stalling the enemy. Or you can advance seemingly strongly but with a reserved spirit, forestalling him with the reserve. Alternatively, advance with as strong a spirit as possible, and when you reach the enemy move with your feet a little quicker than normal, unsettling him and overwhelming him sharply. Suppose conventional stakehold- ers anticipated being attacked for not building green. If they were operating from a ken no sen strategic approach, they would seek to pre-empt these attacks such as by a challenge regard- ing whether and to what extent green is attained, and require proof of green ben- efits. The key point is, whether or not this focus on the validity of green was indeed a strategic pre- emptive attack, it resulted in unset- tling the green building sector (and its lawyers) and putting it/them on the defensive. It has also resulted in a diversion of focus from why conven- tional buildings are still being devel- oped/retrofit conventionally rather than green. In considering green and conven- tional building approaches, if we can be aware of all the strategies that may be at play, we have a greater chance of achieving green objectives. For exam- ple, another such concept that may be in practice is divide and conquer – put groups on the defensive and attack one another, instead of co-operating to achieve green goals. BB Sonja Persram, BSc, MBA, LEED AP is president of Sustainable Alternatives Consult- ing Inc., providing services in developing green building strategies, policy, regulatory issues and markets, as well as program design and imple- mentation. Sonja practised Shotokan karate and other martial arts for over 15 years. Contact industrynews By Sonya Persram A helpful concept in understanding strategic approaches is yin-yang – a balance between seeming opposites. 1 Kats, Greg, Capital E, Green High Performance Buildings: Economics, Trends and Technologies, Presenta- tion to Toronto Green Real Estate Conference, March 2014, http:// docs/GRE14_KEY2_Greg_Kats.pdf 2 Kok, Nils with Kahn, Matthew, The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market: An Economic Analysis of the Impact of Green Labeling on the Sales Price of a Home, 2012, 3 Lipkis, Andy, Volume 2 Foreword to Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster, July 1, 2007, www.harvesting foreword-by-andy-lipkis 4 Guyatt, Danielle et al., Mercer, Climate Change Scenarios: Impli- cations for Strategic Asset Alloca- tion: Public Report, 2011, www. attachments/global/investments/ responsible-investment/Climate- change-scenarios-Implications-for- strategic-asset-allocation.pdf 5 Kats, Greg, op. cit. 6 Eisenberg, David and Persram, Sonja, Code, Regulatory and Systemic Barriers of Living Building Projects, Cascadia Region Green Building Council, 2009, www. Cascadia_Code_Report_Eisenberg _Persram.htm 7 The-Book-of-Five-Rings, pg. 20
  8. 8. 6 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 A t the recent EnerQuality Inno- vation Forum, they had a fun Innovation Gauntlet where six manufacturers were given ten minutes to pitch their relatively new ideas or products to three builder panelists – think Dragon’s Den for building innovation. I started think- ing about my 30-year history with air-to-air heat exchangers, as they were known back in the ’80s, and what I might have said to a panel of build- ers back then. I am sure they would have asked about the cost both to buy and operate, how difficult they would be to install, and the mainte- nance requirements of the then-new technology. Thirty years later, I am pleased to say that all heat recovery ventilator (HRV) manufacturers have responded with excellent, reliable, durable products that are both easier to install and maintain, but also sig- nificantly more cost effective. Now, in response to the needs of high performance homes, it’s time for the next advances in heat or energy recovery ventilation application. Specifically, let’s look at the opportu- nities for better energy performance – sensible and latent recovery, and electrical consumption. Allow me to propose that in Near Zero energy homes, the proper approach to ventilation will be HRVs/ ERVs (energy recovery ventilators) ducted independently from the heating and cooling system. Heating and cooling needs will be small and intermittent, even localized, depend- ing on glazing loads. Imagine heating and cooling may be accomplished by a variety of technologies or alternatives, but that it will no longer be necessary to tie the electrical consumption of the ventilation system to the operation of larger air handler fans, even if they use electronically commutated motor (ECM) fans. Most HRVs/ERVs have at least two speed settings, and are typically designed for continuous opera- tion at low speed. This offers a great opportunity for ECM-type fan motors in the ventilation system as well, since the difference in power consumption of a regular permanent split capacitor (PSC) motor and an ECM-type motor is greater at its low speed setting than at its high speed setting. To see the annual energy impact of high performance HRVs in a high performance Near Zero energy home, I ran a few energy simulations using both the Natural Resources Canada HOT2000 energy simulation software and the REM/Rate home energy rat- ing software developed by NORESCO LLC for the U.S. residential market. I used a base continuous ventilation rate of 75 cu. ft./min (CFM) (typi- cal for a four-bedroom house) and a central Ontario climate zone. I compared: • an HRV with a sensible recovery efficiency (SRE) of 60 per cent and an electrical consumption of 110 watts (the specifications of an older, traditional economy-level HRV) ducted into an air handler with an ECM fan motor to • an ERV with an SRE of 75 per cent, a total recovery efficiency of 65 per cent and an electrical consumption of 34 watts (such as specifications for a high performance ERV) with its own separate duct system. The total annual energy consump- tion was 1430 kWh per year less with the high performance ERV in a very efficient home. This reduction rep- resented approximately 11 per cent of the overall energy use of the high performance home. Of this 1430 kWh saving: • approximately 10 per cent was due to the improvement in SRE • approximately 40 per cent was due to the reduced fan power consump- tion of the ECM fan motor • approximately 40 per cent was due to the reduction of electrical consumption due to the dedicated ducting of the ventilation system • the final 10 per cent is attributed to the ERV core and improved cooling performance. In short, the next big thing in ventilation strategies is to reduce fan power consumption of both the ventilator itself and the ventilation distribution system. Given that in nearly all markets in Canada the price of electricity is higher than that of common heating fuels like natural gas and oil, the dollar savings for clients is even better with ECM ventilation fan motors than improved core effi- ciencies. Of course, we should all be High Performance HRVs and Controls industryexpert By G ord Cooke There will be even greater savings by allowing owners of high performance homes to tailor their ventilation needs to their lifestyle.
  9. 9. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 helping our clients choose the best of both – better fan motors and better core efficiencies – as they offer a great return on investment. In a zero energy home, where any energy usage is to be offset by energy generation, the 1430 kWh saved by a high performance ERV is roughly equal to the energy output of a 1200- watt solar array in most regions of Canada. At current installed prices of approximately $3.00 to $3.50 per watt for solar panels, the high performance ERV ends up having an equivalent value of over $3600. It may be of interest that while overall the HOT2000 and REM/Rate software gave similar results, neither program was able to accurately model the latent load reductions of ERVs. In fact, oddly, the U.S.-based software does not recognize the improved per- formance of ERVs in cooling mode at all. Nor is the REM/Rate software able to capture the savings due to dedi- cated ventilation distribution on its own. Although these are work around electrical credits, they could easily be applied against baseloads in the same way in REM/Rate. Finally, there are other benefits to high performance HRVs/ERVs such as longer lasting fan motors, quieter operation, greater variation in speed range from high to low and better moisture control. With an ECM fan motor it should be possible to provide both a high, high speed and a low, low speed without an energy penalty. These benefits would help facilitate the switch in design philosophy back to fully ducted HRVs/ERVs. One last but very important point, and a hint to the focus of a future article. We finally have the abil- ity for simple, yet comprehensive control capabilities that will be ever more important in high performance homes to meet the expectations of consumers. I am speaking of great wireless control technology, such as the new ecobee3. Ecobee started the ball rolling on the unique ability of smart thermostats and now this latest enhancement, the ecobee3, has specific capabilities relevant to the optimization of ventilation perfor- mance and overall control in high performance homes. For example, most smart thermo- stats can only accomplish a simple ON/OFF of an HRV, whereas this con- trol can duplicate the programmed timing and/or intermittent control functions that usually have to come with the proprietary HRV manufac- turer’s controls. Thus, while we saw above excellent energy savings using better ventilation fan technology, there will be even greater savings by allowing owners of high perfor- mance homes to tailor their ventila- tion needs to their lifestyle. This new ventilation control functionality, combined with the multiple remote temperature sensor capability of the ecobee3, will manage much better the low but intermittent heating, cooling and ventilation loads characteristic of truly high performance homes. Builders moving along the path of Near Zero energy homes can welcome the integrated functions of one true heating, ventilation and air condition- ing (HVAC) control to ensure their homeowners are able to get the most out of their new home. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. High efficiency HRVs can recover heat so that returning fresh air is 5 degrees cooler than house air. This is a necessity for Near Zero homes. Diagram:SkylarSwinford
  10. 10. 8 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 W ithout a measur- able, reliable, easily understood energy score, how do you know your home is achiev- ing its energy sustainability targets? What’s the point of future proofing your home against rising energy costs if you can’t measure your savings? The Canadian Residential Energy Services Network (CRESNET) is work- ing toward building a profes- sional energy rating industry in Canada that will help you future proof your home by promoting the use of a stan- dardized, accredited, North American-recognized HERS energy score. CRESNET, a Canadian nonprofit organi- zation, represents, trains, certifies and supports energy raters in Canada. What is the HERS index? The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) index is a simple to understand score where the lower your score, the better your energy efficiency. A 1 per cent drop in HERS equals a 1 per cent drop in energy costs to run your home. As simple as that. The HERS index is indepen- dent of any government or utility program, and is becoming more and more recognized in Canada by existing programs as a viable way of measuring a home’s efficiency. Steve Baden, executive director of the American Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) says, “With well over 1 million homes rated in the U.S., the HERS index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is now being mea- sured in the U.S. and Canada. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.” Cross-Border Challenge recog- nizes the lowest HERS scores At the recent 2015 RESNET confer- ence, the Cross-Border Challenge recognized Canadian and American builders for achieving outstanding HERS scores. While a standard home built to today’s local code usually runs at about HERS 60, the winning build- ers in several categories were able to achieve scores as low as HERS 26 for a custom home and HERS 47 on average for a production builder. Remember, a percentage drop in the HERS means a percentage drop in annual energy costs. These homes are running at 40 per cent of the energy costs compared to standard new homes. HERS is the buildernews By P a t ri c i a D u ffy How a Professional Energy Rating Industry Can Help Future Proof Homes RESNET/CRESNET Cross- Border Challenge Award winners (l-r): Jacob Atalla of KM Homes, John Godden, president of CRESNET, and Bob Stewart of Brookfield Homes. Photo:Cresnet
  11. 11. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 only energy index that can truly measure a net zero (and better) house, and in fact one of the winners achieved a HERS score of -23 using photovoltaic (PV) additions to the home design. The nega- tive HERS number means the house is using less energy than it is producing. Spreading the word about the HERS index CRESNET is also working with the Sustainable Hous- ing Foundation (SHF) to help spread the word about the benefits of using the HERS index. SHF board members have recently attended three Green Homes Summits put on by the Canada Green Building Council in Halifax, Toronto and Edmonton. At all three events presentations about the Better Than Code and Near Zero approach for builders to achieve lower HERS scores were very well received. In Edmonton, John Godden, founding SHF board member, held a focus group for Alberta builders interested in learning more about how to achieve Near Zero hous- ing, a score of 30 on the HERS index. The response from builders was positive. Both Halifax and Edmonton build- ers are looking forward to sponsoring a demonstration Project FutureProof home in their province. Work is also underway to collaborate with Écohabitation in Quebec to build a Near Zero home using the HERS index. Stay tuned. What is next for CRESNET and the HERS index for Canada? CRESNET has adopted the industry standards cre- ated for the large American RESNET market and is adapt- ing them for Canadian use, under licence by RESNET. CRESNET oversees the cer- tification process in Canada for HERS energy raters. To become a certified HERS energy rater you need to: • pass the CRESNET Air Tightness Testing course and exam • take the Canadian HERS training course • pass the Canadian HERS exam • undertake three addi- tional supervised HERS home ratings. There are currently about 20 energy raters certified or in the process of being certi- fied as HERS raters, many of whom are already certified air tightness testers. CRESNET is planning to increase the num- ber of courses offered over the next year. In conclusion, if you haven’t already done so, you should have a look at how the HERS index, and spe- cifically the Better Than Code approach to building new energy-efficient homes, can help build more sustainable homes across Canada. Visit us at BB Patricia Duffy is executive direc- tor of CRESNET and the Sustain- able Housing Foundation. buildernews By Patricia Duffy
  12. 12. 10 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015
  13. 13. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 sitespecific By Mi c h a e l Wh i t e M erriam-Webster defines com- fort as “a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc.” As comfort relates to housing I would define comfort as “the temperature, relative humidity (RH) and airflow where people don’t notice their environment.” Although comfort can be subjective, the vast majority of people are comfortable with tempera- tures between 21–22ºC with an RH between 30–50 per cent. Whether you’re building to SB-12 requirements or one of the many high performance housing programs, you’ll have noticed by now that comfort complaints aren’t going away, and in some cases are actually on the rise. How can this be? Houses are tighter (fewer drafts), have higher R-values (reduced heat loss), and more effi- cient mechanical equipment than ever before, yet as an industry we continue to deal with homeowner comfort complaints. Ironically these efficiency improvements can lead to an increase in those complaints. Modern condens- ing furnaces with two-stage gas valves and variable speed blowers, combined with reduced heat loss through the envelope, mean they are running less, and often at low-fire speeds. By default people believe exces- sive heat loss to be the cause of their comfort issues, where in reality it’s usually a lack of conditioned air that is the root of the problem. Remember, you can keep a tent warm all winter if you supply it with enough heat. Duct designs combined with effec- tive sealing of the ductwork are more important than ever in the comfort delivery game. We’ve been hearing from industry experts the importance of duct sealing for some time now. It’s noteworthy that when a heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design occurs, the designer works on the assumption that 100 per cent of the rated airflow actually goes where it’s supposed to. In fact, we’ve measured duct leakage in many homes and found typical leakage rates of 20–30 per cent. Once we realize that only 70 per cent of the design airflow is going where it’s sup- posed to, we begin to understand why we’re dealing with so many comfort complaints. Foil tape is the weapon of choice for most trades, and is often ineffective due to poor installation and peeling tape. In response to demand from our builder clients, my partner and I started a business called HomeWorks Energy and Comfort Solutions. Often we are contracted to simply refute a warranty claim. For example a home- The Comfort Conundrum TheHealthyHomeSpecialists BuilderServices: • Aeroseal Duct Sealing • Validate/Refute Homeowner comfort related complaints • Data logging for: temperature, RH, Equipment run times, etc. • Chronic icicles • Excess moisture issues • Thermal Imaging • Air Leakage Investigations • Written Reports with Photos/Thermal Scans • Recommendations for remediation • HVAC balancing • HRV Balancing • Exhaust Fan performance measurement • For homeowner/consumer services please visit our website 905.875.4544 Duct designs combined with effective sealing of the ductwork are more important than ever in the comfort delivery game.
  14. 14. 12 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 owner claims, “There is insulation missing in the bedroom wall.” With thermal imaging equipment, we would either validate the claim if we found insulation voids, or more typically refute it with thermal scans as evi- dence the wall is insulated. This repre- sents a noninvasive, cost-effective way for builders to respond to this type of warranty claim – but it doesn’t solve the problem. Even though we can prove the builder is compliant with the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and/ or high performance program, we still have an unhappy homeowner with an uncomfortable room. A little over a year ago and (almost by accident) we stumbled across an outfit called Aeroseal – Duct Sealing from the Inside. I’m reminded of the old Wendy’s commercial where then- owner Dave Thomas states while eat- ing a hamburger, “I was so impressed, I bought the company!” We didn’t actually buy the company, but are an authorized licensed dealer. Aeroseal (aerosol injection system) reduces duct leakage to under 5 per cent in most cases and comes with a ten- year written guarantee. Once you’re actually delivering the conditioned air to where it’s supposed to go, most comfort issues are resolved and balancing the system takes on a whole new meaning. Your ability to cool the second floor and warm the bonus room increases exponentially once you’re delivering 95 per cent plus of the design airflow. For more info visit BB Michael White is a certified energy advisor (CEA) and HERS rater, and president of RGL Building Consultants and HomeWorks Energy and Comfort Solutions. sitespecific By Michael White photo:Homeworks The exclusive aeroseal duct sealing system injects adhesive particles into the air duct system. The particles attach directly to the edges of any holes and cracks, effectively sealing without coating the inside of the ductwork.
  15. 15. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 N et zero housing is the next chal- lenge making its way through the new home industry. The zeroing of a house’s net energy con- sumption is not a new challenge. A number of high profile projects have net zero as the main focus. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC’s) EQuilibrium houses, for instance, which were completed a num- ber of years ago, were the first net zero houses completed as part of a national program. More recently, the federally funded ecoENERGY Innovation Initia- tive (ecoEII) project will see 25 net zero houses built by five builders in com- munities across Canada. buildABILITY Corporation is the project manager and lead consultant for this national project awarded to Owens Corning Canada. The five builders are: Con- struction Voyer (Laval, Que.), Mattamy Homes (Calgary, Alta.), Minto Commu- nities (Ottawa, Ont.), Provident Devel- opment Inc. (Halifax, N.S.) and Reid’s Heritage Homes (Guelph, Ont.). Recently, even the Cana- dian Home Builders’ Asso- ciation (CHBA) has jumped on board. The new CHBA Net Zero Energy Housing Council is expected to be the clearinghouse for national net zero activities. According to CHBA the council will build aware- ness and knowledge, and accelerate action in the adoption of voluntary net zero housing. Despite all of this attention, net zero is not a clearly defined term. Generally, a net zero house means a house that, over the course of a year, produces as much energy through renewable sources as it uses. While this concept seems simple enough, applying the con- cept raises many questions. The International Energy Agency (IEA) is working on creat- ing an overarching net zero definition, and has outlined a number of criteria that a full definition should consider. Some of the points raised by the IEA are presented here. The first big question to consider is whether net zero is restricted to a single house, or can the concept apply to a group of houses with shared renewable technologies, such as a collection of photovoltaic panels (PVs) or a wind turbine located in the community park? If so, should the energy calculations be limited to considering only the loads of the houses, or must it also consider the lights in that park and the street lights? Another big question is what met- rics are used for the net zeroing. Is it energy, greenhouse gas emissions or dollars? If the balance is megajoules (MJ) of energy, is natural gas MJ the same as electricity MJ? The home’s electricity meter is reversed when energy is generated by the PV panels. However, the meter is only reversed to 0. How can gas consumption be zeroed against PV generation? Despite PVs being sized to zero and the entire energy use of the house including natural gas, a homeowner would only receive credit for the electricity consumed. Is the implication that net zero houses should only have electric space and water heating? If net zero houses were completely electric, to allow homeowners to receive full credit for the energy gen- erated by the PVs, what would be the implications for the grid? On a cold January night, when PV panels are not generating energy, and the furnaces are drawing energy, what’s the impact on peak electricity demand? Net Zero Houses Raise Many Questions industrynews By Mi c h a e l L i o A family with four teenagers, who take long showers and have a TV and computer in every room, can increase loads significantly compared to a household with two seniors. Generally, a net zero house means a house that, over the course of a year, produces as much energy through renew- able sources as it uses.
  16. 16. 14 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 While heating, cooling, ventilation, water heating, and appliance loads are typically counted as part of the home’s energy consumption, is it rea- sonable to also include the energy for charging electric cars? One of the most pressing ques- tions is whether the net zero balance should be as designed and simulated, or based on how the house actually performs once occupied. If the net zero balance is perfor- mance based, how could a net zero energy balance result each year given the year to year variability in weather? Would the PV system need to be sized with a built-in safety fac- tor to account for weather variability? If the net zero balance is per- formance based, how are occupant lifestyles accounted for? A family with four teenagers, who take long showers and have a TV and computer in every room, can increase loads significantly compared to a household with two seniors. A house simulated to be net zero using standard operating condi- tions would consume very different amounts of energy with these respec- tive families. If the net zero balance is based on computer simulation, what assump- tions are made? What user-based loads are assumed? Once constructed and occupied, will homeowners demand actual performance be aligned with simulated performance? How are these houses marketed to buyers and what implicit promises will be made? These are the formative years for net zero houses in Canada. More build- ers are experimenting with their design and construction, and homebuyers are becoming aware of this new option. There are many questions that need answers before policy is enacted and programs are developed. For the time being work on important demonstra- tion projects is ongoing. The hope is that CHBA’s Net Zero Energy Hous- ing Council may help resolve some of these outstanding questions. BB Michael Lio is president and Ceara Allen is manager, technical services, at buildABILITY Corporation. industrynews By Michael Lio For more information, see: •, ecoEII Owens Corning’s Net Zero Housing Community Project • Criteria for Definition of Net Zero Energy Buildings, Sartori et al, publications/downloads/Task40a- Criteria_for_Definition_of_Net_ Zero_Energy_Buildings.pdf
  17. 17. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 Features
  18. 18. 16 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 featurestory By A l e x Ne w m a n S olar architecture firm Solterre from Halifax, N.S., won big at the 2014 Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards. They were intrigued by the Business Leadership Award, which gave out a cash prize of $50,000 not for a specific project, but for evidence of leadership in energy-efficient and sustainable housing practices. David Gallaugher spoke to Better Builder on behalf of Solterre’s founders and principal architects, Jennifer Corson and Keith Robertson, who are currently in Ghana building a library. “The firm has been doing solar architecture – hence the name Solterre – for a couple of decades, starting when energy efficiency, especially solar, was kind of experimen- tal,” says Gallaugher, who is an architect with the firm. “Over the years we kept doing what we do, learning as we went, and being able to pass on that knowledge to our cli- ents to help them make wise and cutting edge decisions. Now the whole industry has moved where we are.” Solterre has long incorporated good design – for both esthetics and energy efficiency – while keeping budgets in SolterreShape, Study and Share
  19. 19. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 mind. “Creating great green architecture that meets client’s needs comes by understanding the particular effects of natural resources, materials and energy on the built envi- ronment,” Gallaugher says. According to Solterre’s website, they aim to build “bet- ter instead of bigger by incorporating design features that make smaller spaces more adaptable, aesthetically pleas- ing, economic and environmentally beneficial.” What drives the firm’s design esthetics, Gallaugher adds, is collaborating with clients. “The more feedback, the better the project. We ask the clients what they want, and though we’re not an architecture firm with a particular style, we do have a focus – beautiful spaces with lots of natural light that work with the seasons.” Juggling the desire to create as much passive solar and other energy-efficient measures as possible with budgets can sometimes be challenging, he admits. But they work with what is most critical to efficiency and achievable within the budget. So, the firm’s approach is three pronged – shape, study Photo: Solterre
  20. 20. 18 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 and share. They shape a project through client collaboration, study by technological monitoring plus client feedback, and share by informing new clients and colleagues. The hot topic of energy efficiency has led to most architectural firms becoming green, but Solterre is ahead of the pack because their sustain- ability practices go back so many years. They’ve also had the ability to develop their ideas in the area of solar architecture in the Maritimes more easily than big cities in Central and Western Canada. For one thing, there’s less competition on the East Coast, and with land being cheaper there’s a bigger budget, so they can explore green design and building. For another, the Maritimes is consid- ered one of Canada’s best locations for solar projects because of the temperate climate and significantly higher number of sunny winter days. To accompany their written entry to the Business Leadership category, Solterre included the recently built concept house that Corson and Rob- ertson plan for retirement and uses several experimental new products and practices. “We looked at a lot of new things, asking ourselves how durable it might be to incorpo- rate recycled glass as aggregate in concrete, or whether it’s possible to put a green roof on a passive solar roof,” Gal- laugher says. “These are thing we’ve wanted to try out in the past, but it’s tougher to experiment with a client’s project, so trying them out on our own project gave us a lot of freedom.” The $50,000 award has enabled the firm to monitor the house located near Lunenburg to see what works and what doesn’t. The big surprise, says Gallaugher, “was how effective the super insulation and solar techniques work together. That sounds like a self-evident statement, but to witness it and live in it yourself still shocks me. When I went up there last March [2014], the lights and heat were off, and yet the thermostat read 19°C. Jen and Keith spend time there, and Jen compares it to their Halifax home, where she has to wear a scarf, but the cottage even in mid-January with no heat on has no drafts. She says it’s hard to come back to Halifax.” Monitoring when no one is in the house has revealed that indoor temps never drop below 15°C. And on sunny days in January, it can reach 22°C or 24°C – just through basic passive solar principles. In 2014 the house con- sumed just $35 of propane, Gallaugher says. “The supplier didn’t believe us and double checked the numbers because they were so ridiculously low.” The solar system is backed up by a small woodstove, and the backup to that backup is baseboard hot water radiators powered by a solar hot water system that’s backed up by a propane boiler. There are pros and cons to an off- grid house, says Gallaugher. “If you’re far away from the electrical poles of the delivery grid, it can cost as much as $20,000 to connect, so going off- grid makes sense. But you can still be connected to the grid while operating on solar power. The benefit is if the solar panels aren’t producing – not enough sun to generate power – then you can still hook in. And on sunny days when you’re able to produce and store power, you can sell it back to the system, stabilizing the local power grid and sharing your invest- ment with neighbours.” Recycled rainwater, collected from two metal roofs, is used for land- scaping – Corson and Robertson are gradually building up gardens and an orchard. There’s also a well dug to ensure a full supply of water. The slab foundation, which acts as the cottage’s flooring, is composed of concrete mixed with recycled glass. It’s beautiful – with a diamond ground finish – but also offers the only recycling solu- tion for window glass, which can’t be recycled because of the coat- ings, and normally goes straight to landfill. Recycled glass was also used instead of sand for the septic field, an application which Gal- laugher believes is the first of its kind in Nova Scotia. Plenty of salvaged materials were used too. When Corson graduated as an architect in the 1990s, she estab- lished a salvage company in addition to founding Solterre with Robertson – and hosted The Resourceful Renova- tor TV show. The hot topic of energy efficiency has led to most architectural firms becoming green, but Solterre is ahead of the pack because their sustainability practices go back so many years. Solterre incorporates both passive and active solar design strategies. Photo:Solterre featurestory By Alex Newman
  21. 21. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 featurestory By Alex Newman A comprehensive approach to design/build using reclaimed materials, water efficiency and supplementary heating systems. Photos:Solterre | Issue 13 | spring 2015
  22. 22. 20 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 “Sometimes these salvaged pieces take quite a bit of effort to reap- propriate,” Gallaugher says, “but they bring so much flair and unique character, and can really warm up a modern space.” The black walnut doors in the concept house came from a Nova Scotia estate. At 12’ high they not only required extremely robust gliders to hang them, but shaped the house, espe- cially the roofline, says Gallaugher. The kitchen is mostly salvaged from a commercial enterprise. The 14’ stainless steel counter came out of a convent, cabinets for the island came from a laboratory and were repainted, and the shower surround was made of waste signs from a local signage manufacturer. The sink was repurposed from a local business, and light fixtures were refitted to take LED bulbs. The exceptionally thick walls are reinforced with wood trusses that came from an old movie set. Corson purchased them for $1 apiece and held onto them for years. Gallaugher figures about 100 tonnes of trash was redirected from landfill into the building. Solar architecture should not alter anyone’s lifestyle, he says. “You just have to be aware of how some of the things function.” Solterre created a manual for the concept house, including a simple chart that shows energy use, like how one hour of TV is the equivalent of microwaving a bag of popcorn. “It just makes you a little more aware of how much energy [you are] using,” he adds. Scotiabank EcoLiving, a program launched in 2010, aims to educate Canadians on the benefits of residen- tial energy efficiency by demonstrating how homeowners can save money by saving energy, reducing their impact on climate change through energy effi- ciency and sustainable practices. The EcoLiving website includes a financial calculator and information on govern- ment rebates, which allow users to plan and finance their projects, and see the savings that can result from environmentally friendly renovations. As energy prices continue to increase and residential energy efficiency continues to be a factor in renovation trends, EcoLiving is a resource that provides users with the tools to make informed decisions. BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at featurestory By Alex Newman
  23. 23. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 Telephone 905-760-9894 Toll Free 1-800-465-5700 Fax 905-660-5967 Mike Martino I am a “GOOD MAN” MikeMartino HVAC2014 We provide home comfort solutions that exceed our customers’ expectations through professional design, installation, service and use of environmentally friendly, energy efficient products. Call us first!
  24. 24. 22 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015
  25. 25. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 A lthough fancy features like granite counters and double- wide fridges still hold sway with homebuyers, more and more are looking carefully at the merits of good indoor air quality and energy efficiency when they compare homes to purchase. That’s thanks to education, higher utility costs, better energy-efficient products and a desire for comfort over fashion. Probably the number one contributor to improved air qual- ity is a properly sized heating, ven- tilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, says Mike Martino, a heating contractor with 30-plus years’ experi- ence and three-time winner of the Building Industry and Land Devel- opment Association (BILD’s) Trade Contractor of the Year. “I’ve been installing furnaces – over 70,000 of them – in the GTA since 1976,” Martino says. “As a heating contractor you calculate the size of equipment based on heat gain and loss equations. Right sizing was always an interest to me, but when I started out, builders were afraid the equipment wouldn’t sufficiently heat a house, so they made it larger than necessary.” What’s changed in the intervening 30-plus years he’s been in the business is housing envelopes have become so much tighter and better at holding heat, with better windows and doors, and improved insulation. Equipment too has radically improved. “It was the oil crisis of the 1970s that prompted manufacturers to develop more efficient heating and cooling equipment,” Martino says. “Back then, furnaces and air condi- tioning units were maybe 55 per cent efficient. Today, they can be up to 98 per cent efficient with a forced air gas furnace that’s two stage – back then gas furnaces were single stage – now funaces have a more efficient electronically commutated motor (ECM). Air conditioning now has more environmentally friendly Freon.” A right-sized furnace, now manda- tory as of January 1 with the Ontario Building Code (OBC), not only reduces buildernews By A l e x Ne wm a n Mike Martino – Right Sizing Matters Photo:HumeMediaInc.
  26. 26. 24 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 energy consumption, but improves indoor air quality. As Martino explains, “An oversized furnace provides a quick blast of heat, then shuts down once the desired temperature is reached, wast- ing a lot of natural gas and creating uneven heating throughout the home.” A right-sized furnace and its fans, on the other hand, run more fre- quently and consistently. “That elimi- nates the stratification by circulating air more frequently,” Martino says. “The air is mixed and evened out, thus maintaining an even temperature.” It’s all in the design of the job, he adds. Although energy sources other than natural gas can be used with a right-sized furnace, Martino has found it’s still the most efficient for the money. When he started out in the 1970s and ’80s, he sold solar systems for Lennox and became a convert to the notion of a reduced carbon footprint. But most of his work now is with forced air natural gas. “In the areas I work, Southern Ontario outside the GTA from Kingston to Niagara, natu- ral gas is always available, and I’ve found it to be the most efficient and economical way to go.” He has used combination heating systems, high velocity air distribu- tion, and even solar to heat hot water for space heating, “but the cost and return on investment (ROI) is not the same as natural gas.” But installing the right size furnace is just part of the efficiency equation – equally important is the system that accompanies it. “Developing a design will show how many runs you need, ways to reduce the number of twists and bends to aid good airflow, proper gauge of sheet metal,” Martino says. “You also have to make sure joints are properly sealed, screwed and taped. I’ve seen all kinds of shortcuts being taken, which is why I always recom- mend that homeowners have a list to go over with their heating contractor.” Things to insist on, for example, would include manufacturers’ war- ranties, quality installation, proper sizing of gas pipe and venting mate- rial, system balancing and an equip- ment performance check – Martino does a check six months after a homeowner has moved in – and the offer of tune-ups and preventive maintenance to homeowners. “Once installed the furnace system must be properly started up and bal- anced,” Martino says. “Balance involves adjusting dampers and the speed of air coming from the furnace, and this ensures even airflow to all rooms.” It’s also up to homeowners to con- tinually maintain the system by doing things like changing the furnace fil- ters regularly. Martino’s own filtration system, the Martino Air Guard, which has a 5” filter capability, increases HVAC efficiency by filtering out more particles than a standard 1” filter, while protecting the heat exchanger and blower motor compartment. Martino has found that the build- ers he works with, with whom he’s had long-standing relationships, are on board with right sizing. “What’s important for them is to have happy, satisfied buyers. And they don’t want maintenance issues with homeowners. Over time they’ve come to trust our design because it’s trouble-free. And I don’t take shortcuts.” Martino figures that’s one reason he’s a three-time BILD winner – 2010, 2011 and 2014. “And I don’t take shortcuts because I figure everyone deserves to have the system they’re paying for. Especially with the cost of houses these days.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at buildernews By Alex Newman
  27. 27. | Issue 13 | spring 2015
  28. 28. 26 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 • Side discharge unit,Dettson the first HVAC manufacturer to go the distance • Variable speed compressor modulating from 25 to 100% • Quietest outdoor operation within a range from 49 to 55dB • Quiet air distribution; able to deliver very low CFM air flow • Longer operation cycles • Ideally suited to the multifamily market • 95% AFUE and above • 10”wide x 22”tall • Low airflow of 50 to 400 CFM for: - Thermal comfort - Quiet operation • Multiposition DETTSON,PROVIDER OF THE RIGHT-SIZED SYSTEM® Warm air gas furnace family designed and manufactured in Canada Can be installed in combination with our entire Chinook gas furnace family. Dettson is the first HVAC manufacturer offering a variable speed system (heating and cooling) for year round comfort,our controls also interlock with the REV or HRV. For the Energy efficient and well insulated home builders the Right-Sized System also equates to less call backs and lower warranty risk. Dettson Industries is a proud member of the Net Zero Energy Housing Council. TF 1.800.567.2733 Capacityoftheunit (modulating25-100%) 0.75Ton 1Ton 1.5Ton 2Ton 2.5Ton 3Ton Airflowcontrol(CFM) 100- 300 100-400 150-600 200-800 250-1000 300-1200 SEER(Cooling) 27 25 21 21 16 16 New products for our Right-Sized System® OUR CHINOOK GAS FURNACE OFFERS A FULL LINE FROM 15,000 TO 120,000 BTU. Allows the Right-Sized System® in combination with our Alizé cooling unit. Ouput High Fire (100%) 14,400 Ouput Low Fire (40%) 5,760 Efficiency 0.96 Temperature Rise (˚F) 22-55 ˚F Variable Speed Motor HP 1/3 HP Electrical Data 120 V-60 V-Phase 1 Maximum Consumption 8.7 Amp
  29. 29. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 I magine a home that provides as much energy as it consumes, or perhaps more accurately provides as much energy savings as the cost to operate. I’m sure by now we’ve all heard or read something about net zero for housing, but what does it really mean? And are we ready as an industry to deliver this product to market? There is a great deal of confusion regarding what net zero means and how it will be defined (more on that a bit later). What is clear is that net zero homes are not the stuff of science fic- tion. In a few short years the conversa- tion has gone from futuristic thinking to test projects coming to market. Throughout the country leading builders are designing, planning and bringing net zero communities to market. My family company, Doug Tarry Homes, has our first net zero home on the drawing board with a planned construction this spring. So what is driving the interest/ need/demand for net zero housing? The critical driver remains the con- cept of reducing carbon emissions to combat the effects of climate change. This article is far too short to debate the existence of climate change and its impact on society. It is clear gov- ernments throughout the world are taking these concerns very seriously. Here in Ontario, our government is looking to join Quebec and Cali- fornia in some form of cap and trade tax on carbon emissions. Controlling carbon emissions has also entered the Ontario Building Code (OBC) in the form of goal-setting statements about reducing carbon emissions. The energy efficiency of the OBC is set to rise by 15 per cent in 2017 with the release of the next SB-12. Beyond 2017 there is ongoing debate regard- ing whether net zero housing should be included in the OBC to a future date most commonly thought to be 2030. It is the intent of the provincial government that the energy require- ments of the OBC will continue to increase significantly every five years. For the record, I am a proponent of net zero housing and the 2030 challenge. However, I have repeatedly argued that net zero should not be embedded in the OBC. Why? Because to achieve net zero we will need to use district energy, otherwise we could end up cutting down trees to put up solar panels. As Joni Mitchell said, “You pave paradise, put up a parking lot.” We could also have difficulty with meeting the energy requirements of the hous- ing stock. For instance, in areas where intensification of housing is required, there might not be enough solar space on each roof to create enough energy to run the home. On the other hand, these two situations are exactly where district energy would be required to meet the need. Because of this, I believe this to be a planning issue, rather than a building code issue. The Canadian Home Builders’ Asso- ciation (CHBA) has created a brand new Net Zero Energy Housing Council to help steer the process so decisions are made that will have experience behind them. Doug Tarry Homes is a founding member of this council along with many other industry stakehold- ers. The goal will be solutions by build- ers for builders. We need to be very engaged in the dialogue and have our best experts at the table. If net zero carbon is considered, will it tie back into the government implementation of a cap and trade carbon tax? As an industry we need to take this very seriously. If our custom- Net Zero! Are We Ready? fromthegroundup By D ou g Ta rry An artist’s conception of Doug Tarry Homes’ first net zero home, the Northgate. Photo:DougTarryhomes
  30. 30. 28 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 ers can’t afford to buy our homes, it will not matter how energy efficient they are. On the other hand, there is a very real possibility that the cost of purchasing and installing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on homes to create electricity will be revenue neutral (grid parody) with the cost of purchasing electricity from the local utility by the end of the decade. My suggestion is for the building industry to look at everything we can to reduce our customers’ exposure to these rising electric- ity costs, espe- cially the cost of summertime air conditioning, which is why I have been a longtime advocate for using low solar glass on high solar exposure windows. But that is a story for another day. So if we can’t make it to net zero on all housing stock, but need to continue improv- ing housing efficiency, what is a realistic goal? Personally, I have been a proponent of the goal of net zero ready for new homes by 2030. By this I mean that we as an indus- try responsibly create new homes optimized for energy efficiency, are easy to operate and healthy to live in. These homes would have high- insulated building envelopes, very low rates of air leak- age, right-sized mechanical systems, make use of passive solar gains while reducing solar overheating on certain exposures, and be very low maintenance, all reducing the carbon footprint. As a proponent of net zero ready housing and the need for continual improve- ment, I have participated in projects ranging from Solar Ready with National Resources Canada (NRCan) to the ongoing Right-Sized Furnace project with Dettson Industries and the Opti- mum Basement Wall with ROXUL Insulation. However, I am not the only advocate for future proofing of housing. John Godden is doing some really great work with his Near Zero project, work- ing with builders to build homes 50 per cent better than code. Two other industry leaders, Building Knowledge and Mindscape Innovations, are working with several of their builders toward net zero projects. I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the Holy Grail of energy efficiency. Let’s be hon- est. The largest problem we face with reducing our carbon footprint is with older homes. It represents the vast majority of housing stock and has the greatest capacity to meet the pro- vincial goals for reducing carbon emissions. So for all you renovators out there, heads up. There’s gold in them there hills. BB Doug Tarry Jr. is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ont. fromthegroundup By Do ug Tar r y The largest problem we face with reducing our carbon footprint is with older homes.
  31. 31. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 Rosehaven Hits 100 sitespecifictoo By A l e x Ne wm a n O ne of the earliest adopters of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index in deter- mining/calculating a new home’s energy efficiency is Rosehaven Homes. Contracts manager Nick Sanci says the company has “always tried stay- ing above building standards for the industry, and we look for new ways to increase energy performance and efficiency in our homes.” For Sanci the HERS index provides “not only inspiration, but the tools to set higher goals for the future of our homebuyers, especially in the area of energy savings.” In fact, he believes HERS has contributed significantly to his com- pany’s confidence as homebuilders because of the value being offered to purchasers, particularly in the area of energy efficiency. Rosehaven started using the HERS index for its homes three years ago because of the many attractive fea- tures. “HERS allows the builder to be credited for electrical loads,” Sanci says. “It is also less expensive because there’s no enrollment fee, and gives the builder more options and flexibil- ity in how to be energy efficient. For example, HERS factors in energy- efficient air condition- ing and gives credit to energy-efficient appli- ances.” At Rosehaven’s recent Kleinburg proj- ect, Kleinburg Heritage Estates, bylaws called for ENERGY STAR version 6, which Sanci found expensive to com- ply with. “ENERGY STAR is now the minimum code requirement. Depend- ing on what you choose from the list, one point can sometimes cost thou- sands. I find that the return doesn’t justify the cost, and frankly at the end of the day the performance for dollar ratio isn’t close to what we’re doing with HERS.” Recently at the Bramrose project in Brampton, Rosehaven built their 100th HERS-rated home. Most new homes are at a 60 rating – Rose- haven’s average rating is 49, roughly 18 per cent better than code. This is a big deal, says John Godden, presi- dent of Clearsphere. Rosehaven is an industry leader, the first GTA builder to adapt a HERS better than code approach. A hundred homes means 15 per cent of their construction is HERS rated over a ten-year period. Rosehaven was the first builder to use a high efficiency integrated heating, ventilating and air condition- ing (HVAC) system in a subdivision. It consists of a FLOWMAX hot water heater, an AIRMAX handler with elec- tronically commutated motor (ECM), and a high efficiency heat recovery ventilator (HRV) designed as a two- zoned system – one for the basement and first floor and another for the sec- ond floor – it’s 95 per cent efficient. Because the index isn’t as widely accepted for rating energy efficiency, there have been chal- lenges to get people, especially city planners, onside. And in subdivisions with pre-existing agreements, where language is highly prescriptive and leaves no room for interpretation, HERS is not allowed at all. “It’s time to use more performance-based language in the code,” Sanci notes. However, that seems to be changing. The Ontario Building Code (OBC) refers to HERS as an acceptable alterna- tive to other forms of energy ratings. And with the HERS index’s flexibility at accepting various combinations of energy efficiencies, Sanci believes other builders will start to see its value. “HERS has allowed Rosehaven to satisfy a variety of requirements we encounter in different municipalities. It’s actually led to us being branded as builders who are highly knowledgeable about energy efficiency.” Most new homes are at a 60 rating – Rosehaven’s average rating is 49, roughly 18 per cent better than code. We look for new ways to increase energy performance and efficiency in our homes: Nick Sanci. Photo:RosehavenHomes
  32. 32. 30 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015
  33. 33. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 sitespecifictoo By Alex Newman In fact, he’s met with municipal planners and together they “were able to work through why HERS is comparable. I was given an oppor- tunity to explain to them what good results we have had with HERS as an alternative rating system.” There’s been a learning curve, for sure, and the company has added to its expertise along the way. “We’ve discovered how user friendly HERS is,” Sanci says. “And it’s allowed us to incorporate different products and methods into the homebuilding process, and we’ve gained insight as to how we measure up to other builders.” Public education is the best way to inform builders, municipalities and the public about the features of HERS. Sanci admits it’s been a long, slow process in getting the public “to understand and accept energy efficiency over other upgrade options such as granite counters and high-end finishes. But there’s been a growing awareness of the need for long-term energy savings and the cost benefits of doing so, and the public – my buyers included – are starting not only to accept, but to ask for, energy efficiency.” Sanci says part of the public educa- tion program begins in each builder’s sales centre. Rosehaven’s sales team is well versed in the benefits of build- ing with HERS, with each salesperson capable of going through every HERS aspect of the homes. They are also able to provide detailed information about the construction materials used, and can demonstrate how those positively affect an energy efficiency rating and the resulting cost savings to the homeowner. Since 2005 Rosehaven has been rat- ing its subdivisions. And in its build- ing history, the company has built more than 372 ENERGY STAR homes, and 329 to EnerGuide. “But ENERGY STAR no longer accurately reflects the huge energy efficiency we offer.” BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at
  34. 34. 32 | Issue 13 | Spring 2015
  35. 35. | Issue 13 | spring 2015 With residential building codes changing across Canada you need an exterior insulated sheathing that measures up. In the move from nominal to effective R-values, ROXUL® COMFORTBOARD™ IS provides a stable solution. Vapour permeable, it dries easily even if the framing gets wet, guarding against mould and mildew all while delivering an extra layer of thermal protection. DON’T JUST INSULATE, ROXULATE | 1-800-265-6878 Find comfort in a world of change.
  36. 36. | Issue 13 | Spring 2015 Is your home built for better living? Enbridge Gas Distribution’s Savings by Design program helps Ontario builders design and build new homes with energy performance at least 25% better than the 2012 Ontario Building Code. For you the homeowner, that means a more comfortable indoor climate, improved air quality and reduced impact on the environment. Be sure to ask your builder if your home is a Savings by Design home. Learn more at