energy efficiency

Report suggests new building codes aren’t tough enough on energy efficiency

An Efficiency Canada report suggests a lack of mandatory air leak testing in buildings hinders attempts at net-zero energy readiness.
Monday, October 26, 2020

New Canadian building codes that are currently under review by a National Research Council committee would potentially facilitate designs that are less energy-efficient than they could be, according to a Carleton University study.

The federal-provincial Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth Climate Change (PCF) calls for all new buildings to be Net-Zero Energy Ready (NZEr) by 2030. However, a report published by Efficiency Canada, an energy efficiency research and advocacy organization at Carleton, outlines how this may fall short.

In particular, the report, which was based in part on interviews with representatives from the government and other institutions, notes a disconnect between Canada’s climate commitments and new “stretch” model building codes. A lack of mandatory air leak testing, an ineffective approach to measuring energy code compliance, and less stringent best-practice standards for large buildings, for example, present obstacles to NZEr buildings.

Air leakage is reportedly considered to be the greatest source of heat loss in buildings and a big contributing factor in a building’s energy use for heating or cooling. As such, mandating these tests would go a long way towards reducing a building’s energy consumption.

Researchers noted that improved air sealing, increased insulation levels, and high-performance windows and doors are integral to buildings aiming for net-zero readiness.

“We need our building standards to reflect our expectations of a net-zero emissions future,” said the study’s lead author Kevin Lockhart. “That big change — from a minimum standards mentality towards showing where we need to go — requires a new policy framework.”

In summary, the report’s authors have two key recommendations: clearer federal direction for building codes to reach national net-zero emissions goals, and identifying a policy “champion” within the government to integrate building codes into wider policy on climate.

John Power, a spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, stated that building codes “assure Canadians that their health and safety have been fully considered in the construction and renovation of homes and workplaces. He added that the government made national building codes free to save students, workers, and businesses “costs and complications.”

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