Moving to more energy efficient homes.
You might be surprised to know how much housing in Ontario and Canada has evolved over the past 60 years.
In fact, it’s very likely that your parents or grandparents lived in homes that were significantly different than the house you and your family live in today.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recently published Sixty Years of Housing Progress In Canada to mark the corporation’s 60th anniversary and I was amazed by how housing conditions have rapidly changed over the past several decades.
For example, in the early 1940s less than half of Canada’s three million homes had an installed bath or shower and close to 30% of dwellings were in need of major repairs. Surprisingly 44% of homes in the early 1940s had no inside flush toilet and 93% were heated by coal, coke or wood fuel.
Clearly a lot has changed over the years, and without a doubt we can expect further change. And, I believe we can predict major changes and evolution in terms of the energy efficiency of our homes.
As the general public becomes more and more educated about environmental issues such as global warming, climate change, air quality and of course, the rising cost of energy, we can expect an increase in demand for more energy efficient housing.
In fact, that trend is already on the rise and builders are responding.
Recent changes (some 700 technical changes) to Ontario’s Building Code specified some significant increases to the energy efficiency of buildings, so Ottawa’s builders are already incorporating many energy efficient building technologies into new homes. And then of course there is R.2000, EnerGuide for New Houses, LEED and ENERGY STAR® for New Homes.
All these terms can get a bit confusing for buyers, so here’s a primer on what’s what when it comes to energy efficiency in new housing and how the new housing industry continues to play a pivotal role in facilitating innovation and change in this sphere.
In 1998, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) entered into an agreement to continue R-2000 and related programs under the name EnerQuality Corporation.
One of EnerQuality’s goals is to improve energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of new homes built in Ontario through the following four federal government programs: ENERGY STAR® for New Homes, R-2000, EnerGuide for New Homes and Building Canada.
ENERGY STAR® for New Homes is a label earned only by homes that have met strict requirements, allowing homebuyers to rely on the performance tested, third party verified, government backed ENERGY STAR label to know they are buying the most efficient house on the market.
New homes that receive this label are approximately 30 percent more energy efficient than those built to the minimum Ontario Building Code standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3 tons a year per house.
- R-2000 certified homes offer both energy efficiency and green building features. Only licensed R-2000 builders who have been trained and certified can build R-2000 homes.
- EnerGuide for New Houses is a rating system that informs consumers and supports choice by measuring the energy use and efficiency of a new house.
- The Building Canada program in Ontario aims to reduce construction costs, customer call-backs, warranty claims, construction time and construction waste of builders while improving the energy efficiency of our homes.
In addition, you may see or hear of the term LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This voluntary, consensus-based rating system was developed in the United States but is being piloted in some regions in Canada and evaluates environmental performance from a whole building perspective over a building’s life cycle.
All these programs are experiencing tremendous growth and interest as more and more builders obtain the necessary training to meet rising consumer demand for energy efficient housing.
The quest for energy efficient housing is a trend that’s on the rise and the move, and Ontario builders, local contractors and renovators are up for the challenge.
Much of the innovation and efficiency in houses has been pioneered by new home builders and we will continue to look for ways to reduce our dependency and consumption of energy in new homes.
And with the expected growth in innovative technological changes and advancements, I think you can expect that your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will likely be living in houses much different (and better) than you and I are living in today.