Due diligence before promoting efficiency – UPDATE
By Patrick Flannery
Oh why can’t anything ever be simple? Our May 25 COVID News directed readers to a lobby group pushing the feds to deliver post-pandemic stimulus in the form of incentives for energy-efficient renovations. Sounds like a good business driver, right? Well, our friend Casey Edge at the Victoria Residential Builders Association suggests pumping the brakes…
You might first want to complete due diligence on the unintended consequences of increasing energy efficiency which is still under review by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. BC implemented their Energy Step Code before this work has been accomplished. A number of concerns include overheating from solar gain and soil gas ingress (radon). And people wonder how leaky condo happened…
– Casey Edge
This led to a point-counterpoint between Edge and Ben Polley…
Goodness. Casey, it seems that you see red in every possible green initiative.
Agreed, constructon performed without regard for sound (building) science might at best, not deliver the desired effect and at worst, do harm. I imagine that you and I equally could point to such examples, though I will hasten to point out that these are by no means restricted to incidents where energy efficiency gains were sought.
The Building Code (NBC or its provincial equivalents) is however only the MINIMUM (sorry for the caps. not yelling, just no other formatting available to indicate emphasis) allowable standard that builders/renovators must follow. Almost by definition then, it (and the Commission) is not the likely or suitable vehicle through which to promote/incentivize significant improvements in energy efficiency or better still, reductions in both operating energy (carbon) AND embodied carbon. With the notable exception of Vancouver and BC, where the codes ARE actually beginning to step up to meet our climate needs while providing a clear and shared responsibility/path for all builders to do so, waiting on the heavily lobbied, politically sensitive, (small C) conservative, Commission to address the lowest-cost-of-ownership with highly efficient, environmentally sustainable methods of construction will just slow the potential for real advancement.
– Ben Polley
I see orange (caution) not red, in every proposed code change. That’s my responsibility to consumers. History has shown this to be the right approach. You say, “Agreed, constructon performed without regard for sound (building) science might at best, not deliver the desired effect and at worst, DO HARM.” (Caps for emphasis.) I am not willing to accept harm (eg more lung cancer deaths caused by very energy efficient homes drawing in radon as shown by studies.) The CCBFC report says “The work on unintended consequences is of the utmost importance before the energy efficiency requirements for houses (NECB and Section 9.36.) can be finalized for the 2020 code.” Call that conservative if you like, but a code standard should be conservative and avoid harm. That’s the foundation of a code standard – proven practice. That in no way means I am opposed to energy efficiency. It means I support due diligence on behalf of consumer protection, which frankly many energy efficiency advocates, including the BC govt, would rather circumvent. It seems due diligence is an inconvenience, as it was with leaky condo, now long forgotten by regulators, bureaucrats and elected officials vying for green leadership. The BC Step Code enables municipalities to bypass steps, which is why it is a Leap Code and not a Step Code. I could go into issues like Vancouver municipalities leaping into high steps without radon mitigation while homes have tested for elevated levels of radon. But these points just seem to irritate regulators, bureaucrats, elected officials and a handful of energy efficiency advocates.
– Casey Edge
What’s your take?