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Renovating? Building? Consider your Health - A slightly extended version of the article written for the Kingston EMC.
Coming soon: Controlling Humidity in your Home
Learn more about Materials, Building Standards, Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Sources
LEED Canada for Homes is a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. Benefits of a LEED home include lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and less exposure to mold, mildew and other indoor toxins. The net cost of owning a LEED home is comparable to that of owning a conventional custom home. LEED Canada is Administered through the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC). New Leaf Custom Homes is a member of the CaGBC. For more information: http://www.cagbc.org/leed/systems/homes/index.php
Energuide - The Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) within Nateural Resources Canada has the mandate to: "Strengthen and expand Canada's commitment to energy efficiency in order to help address the Government of Canada's policy objectives." This intitiative covers everything from appliances and HVAC devices to commercial buildings and homes. Starting in January 2012, all new homes built in Ontario will be required to meet or exced the Energuide-80 level. This meens better insulated and more air-tight house construction for you! To learn more: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/energuide/home.cfm
Energy Star - First introduced in the US over 15 years ago as a rating system for energy effciciency, Natural Resources Canada supports this initiative in Ontario for new house construction as well. "Energy Star for homes" has taken criticism recently for not going far enough (beyond building code minimums) in terms of efficiency. The 2012 OBC (Ontario Building Code) Energuide-80 requirement might surpass this standard if left as-is. More information: Energy Star for Homes
Passive-House - This is the worlds most comprehensive and demanding standard for energy efficiency of a building. A House designed and built to this standard uses only 10-20% of the energy required to heat/cool a traditional home. It also promotes simplicity, in that it relies on super-insulated, air-tight construction as opposed to "hardware" (solar panels and expensive HVAC components) to achieve efficiency. Most of the heat required to make a Passive House comfortable is obtained through Solar gains, cooking, lighting and radiated heat from the occupants. The heart of a Passive House is a highly-efficient Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) which supplies a constant source of fresh air while recoving the heat-energy from the stale exhaust air. This results in a building that is more comfortable, more healthy and extremely efficient. The standard has been in use for 20 years in Europe (25,000 certified buildings) and is very well documented but with only a few certified homes in Canada, it is still virtually unknown. New Leaf Custom Homes is actively researching this standard with the goal of becoming a certified Passive-House Consultant in 2011.
Geothermal Heating/cooling - This technology uses either drilled wells or buried piping loops to extract heating or cooling properties from the constant temperature of the earth (well below frost level). Also referred to as a Geothermal Heat Pump, this heating/cooling method is gaining in popularity for it's low operating costs. It is however more costly to install, making it worth-while as a longer term investment. Geothermal Heating
Solar AIR Heating - These solar panels extract air from your home, force it through a solar heat exchanger and return it at a much higher temperature. The most efficient of these is the "CanSolair" panel which draws only 31 watts of electricity and produces between 1200-2400 equivalent watts of heat energy. These panels are commonly mounted on a South-facing wall of your home and are among the most cost-effective supplemental solar heating devices available. They offer the shortest ROI (Return on Investment) of any solar panel solution.
PhotoVoltaic (PV) - Solar collectors which convert sunlight into electricity. CMHC has a comprehensive description of PV systems on their web site: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/enefcosa/enefcosa_003.cfm
Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors - These highly-efficient vacuum tubes attract sunlight to heat water (actually a glycol or ethanol-based liquid not affected by sub-zero temperatures). Visit the "Solar Heating Canada" website for more information: http://www.solarheatingcanada.com/evacuated-tube.html
Thermal mass - This term is used to describe the properties of heavy materials (such as concrete and stone) for their ability to slowly absorb and release thermal energy. Incorporating thermal mass into the construction of your home helps prevent temperature swings. It is this property that helps make ICF construction so effective. Thermal Mass Definition.
Thermal Break / Thermal Bridge - These terms are closely related in that one of them (thermal bridge) describes the property of materials such as metal, glass and wood to act as a conduit for heat energy - allowing the transfer of heat/cold through them. The other (thermal break) describes properties of materials such as insulation, which help to impede the transfer of heat energy through them. A properly constructed house is one which eliminates thermal bridges and promotes the use of thermal breaks to achieve efficiency. This is one of the primary objectives when designing and building a "Passive House". In a traditional home (wooden frame) the wall studs are thermal bridges, and the insulation bays between them are thermal breaks. The wall studs result in energy loss unless other measures are taken to protect them with a thermal break.
IAQ (Inside Air Quality) - This term is used to describe the levels of Oxygen, Carbon-Dioxide, Humidity and Toxins within a home. Ideally the goal is plenty of oxygen and elimination of the others. Radon, chemicals (from off-gasing of carpets, kitchen cabinets etc.) and CO2 need to actively removed from modern homes due to their tight-construction. This is where a Heat-Recovery Ventilator (HRV) becomes essential. For more information the EPA (US) has a great introduction to IAQ on their website: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ia-intro.html
Ontario Building Code - The minimum acceptable standard for new construction. Although quite thorough in terms of safety, the OBC could be far more demanding for energy efficiency. Some changes are in the works for 2012 in this regard. The OBC is available online: Ontario Building Code NOTE: The "Housing and Small Buildings" (Part 9) section will contain most of what you're looking for. It is just past half-way through the document. Also of interest: Part 6 contains HVAC code, Part 7 is plumbing and Part 12 contains information on Resource Conservation.
Sustainability - Kingston has the goal to become Canada's most sustainable City. To learn more about this vision, vist the Sustainable Kingston Website.
Coming soon: ICF and SIPS wall assemblies
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