Nate Sereda of EnergyAdvise explains how he performs a blower test on a house in mid-construction. Photo by Lorene Keitch

Building above B.C. energy regulations

BuildSmart TailGate meeting hosted in Windermere

The BC Building Code is changing and, with it, local builders are learning how to keep up with the new requirements.

The Community Energy Association (CEA) coordinated a meeting of industry representatives in the Valley to discuss the changes coming to the BC building codes and show how a local builder is keeping ahead of the curve with their innovative building methods.

“For the last few years, we’ve been bringing workshops and doing capacity building with local governments to teach them about this upcoming policy change called the BC Energy StepCode,” said Gaëtane Carignan, CEA community energy manager. “Out of those workshops the builders were saying ‘this is great, this is really interesting, however, there’s a lot of people on our worksites that need to understand the importance of energy efficiency, of what you’re talking about’.”

To that end, they started organizing meetings with people in the industry, called BuildSmart Tailgate meetings. Kipp Lester, owner of Chisel Peak Construction, and Nate Sereda, an energy advisor, shared their insights and methods with attendees at the meeting, held at the new Hideaways development in Windermere on Thursday, September 5th. The 12 or so people gathered included siders, plumbers, carpenters and Realtors.

“When we head to [the year] 2022, the code changes are pretty significant for all of us. So it’s important for all of us as tradespeople to be on the same page,” said Mr. Lester. “(And for) other professionals like Realtors to understand why we’re using some different building practices than we have in the past. And how that affects the industry, cost of construction, and what it means to homeowners in the future.”

The total 66 units in the Hideaways development will be built over a long enough period of time that the development will face required changes to meet the higher demand Step Code as the project moves forward. So, the developers decided to build to the upcoming Step Code levels right from the start. Mr. Lester said their buildings have already reached what will be Step 3 (mandatory in 2022) with current construction.

“We wanted to really embrace one building practice for the entire development so by the time we got to number 66, we didn’t have to change our wall design, or our HVAC design, or our siding – all the different components of the build,” said Mr. Lester.

Methods to achieve that higher energy efficiency within the Hideaways builds include thicker walls, better insulation, on-demand hot water, triple-pane windows, and doing a mid-construction air tightness test with local energy advisor Nate Sereda.

“Every step of this building envelope has been built better than a code-built house,” said Mr. Sereda.

As demonstrated at the meeting, Mr. Sereda can perform energy efficiency tests on a home in the mid-construction phase, including a blower test where he can find leaks coming into a home, and a smoke test where he can look for more areas of concern around the outside. The fix at this stage is far less costly than after a home is finished, and prevents heat from leaking out over the next 20 or 30 years. Finding leaks and fixing them now, as well as building to a higher standard, means homeowners could save roughly half their heating costs per year as well, Mr. Sereda reported.

“As far as increasing energy efficiency of a home at the construction phase, there is no question that increasing air tightness is the cheapest thing,” said Mr. Sereda.

With wall design becoming thicker, Mr. Sereda warned that the moisture could become trapped within walls if air tightness is not considered. In a thinner wall, the dew point was on the outside of the wall. With thicker walls, the dew point is now inside the wall.

“As we get thicker walls, better construction practices, air tightness now becomes not just a practical good idea for comfort and money savings, but it becomes imperative so your walls don’t start to rot,” he said.

Mr. Sereda has been doing energy efficiency consulting for a decade now. He is the Columbia Valley’s only energy advisor – a federally governed certification process.

“I fully drank the energy efficiency Kool-Aid as an energy advisor,” he commented. “There are a lot of good reasons to make homes better and more energy efficient. First of all, we’re going to have to: within a couple years it will be mandated. But additionally, we’re building more comfortable homes that cost less to operate.”

By 2032, every new build in the province is expected to be built to be net zero energy ready, meaning it could potentially provide all its onsite energy needs without being connected to the energy grid.

In December 2018, the Province released a Clean BC strategy, which included a reaffirmation on the Net Zero Energy Ready Target by 2032 as well as establishing interim deadlines. The first major target for builders is 2022, when new homes will need to perform 20 per cent better than those built to the 2018 BC Building Code requirements. By 2027, new builds will need to meet ‘Step 4’, meaning they are up to 40 per cent more energy efficient than the current code. And the final target is 2032, when new buildings will need to be Net-Zero Energy-Ready, meaning they will be up to 80 per cent more energy efficient than a typical new building today.

For more on the Tailgate meetings, or to learn more about the Community Energy Association, see http://communityenergy.bc.ca/ or email gcarignan@communityenergy.bc.ca.

To learn more about energy advising, see www.energyadvise.ca. To learn more about the Hideaways, see www.pedleyheights.com/the-hideaways-at-tegart-ridge.

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