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Energy Efficiency

The BC Building Code, as well as the Vancouver Building Bylaw, have recently been revised, with much more stringent energy requirements. Basically, the code is finally catching up with all of the heavy lifting that has been done over the last decade in the green building world, and it is now beginning to take climate change seriously. Since buildings are responsible for somewhere around 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions, it cannot come soon enough. This round of changes affects buildings over 3 stories. The next round of revisions, due sometime in 2014, will affect houses and other small buildings. Even with these changes, Canada and the U.S. are still miles behind many European countries, who with their much higher energy prices, have dealt with energy efficiency very aggressively for years.

Designers will now work to one of the following standards: ASHRAE 90.1 (2010)–a North American standard, or the NECB 2011 (National Energy Code for Buildings)–a uniquely Canadian standard. The standards address doors, windows, insulation levels, ventilation, heating, lighting, etc and ensure that buildings are designed to suit their local climate conditions, which vary dramatically across the country. There are prescriptive as well as performance based paths. Most complex buildings will likely use the performance path, and this will mean that most projects will require energy modeling. While this will increase the upfront cost at the design stage of a building, but it is a great tool for exploring options. For example, a simple change to the orientation of a building can have a huge impact on energy use.

For architects, consultants, contractors and owners who have been immersed in the green building world, the newest code will be reasonable. For those accustomed to doing the bare minimum to get by, there will be a steep and likely painful learning curve.

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