As I write, the price of gas at the pump sits well under a dollar a litre which is about the same price it was when I worked a summer at Petro Canada slinging gas at the pump. The price of delivered natural gas is about 32 cents a cubic meter and with these low prices, the financial incentive to conserve is low on the list of priorities for many Canadians. What humbles me is the fact that I can hear myself repeating to homeowners throughout the early and mid 2000′s “Mark my word, the price of energy will go through the roof!”
Though electricity prices have steadily risen, my words have come to haunt me in that prices are still low, especially for natural gas, to the point where I should wash my mouth out with soap – but my, the House of Saud keeps us on our toes! So what’s the incentive for home owners to build a home that’s significantly better performing than building code minimums? More to the point, how does one convince a client to invest in efficiency? Baring the moral issue, it’s the right thing to do for durability, health, low maintenance and increased resilience to natural disasters, but how do we convince owners who are on the fence?
It’s a question Micheal Maines (from Maine!) tackles in a recent Guest Blog posted in Green Building Advisor titled Convincing Clients to Upgrade to Pretty Good (or Better). Because we deliver services to other businesses, we don’t often have to deal with the building owner and thankfully, eschew many of the hard questions we once had to answer on a daily basis when we delivered home energy audits for government rebate programs. Still, there are solid points to be made.
Jim Bahoosh of Jim Bahoosh, Builder — suggests that “no frost on [better] windows” and that energy audits for those considering a full gut/reno should be mandatory. Chris Briley of Briburn Architects, and great podcast Green Architect’s Lounge suggest using “science” and to spend on ventilation. In the end all agreed, that making it beautiful was essential.
At BlueGreen Group, we couldn’t agree more and always emphasize hiring an experienced architect who can walk the razor’s edge pulling between doing what’s right and the ‘house porn’-like expectations of what we’re told we need. A good architect will provide a builder with details needed for high performance and should make the house beautiful for generations of easy and loving low-maintenance.
We also believe that science and detailed energy modeling informs the decision making process, keeps the ‘gut feeling’ in check and simplifies decision-making. This applies to both new construction and Deep Energy Retrofits of existing homes. Let the data talk, but beware, as the old saying goes “Garbage in, garbage out” and the person doing the energy modeling needs to know how to process data with the software.
The other thing we’ve learned is that doing a pre-drywall air tightness test is crucial. In 2012, the Ontario Building Code changed and now building inspectors are compelled to “inspect” the air barrier and sign-off. This sounds rigorous, but is really toothless. Inspectors should be TESTING the air barrier. That’s where we come in with our equipment and help builders get more value from their sub-trades especially the spray foamers who often miss spots, unintentionally skimp on thickness or in rare cases go off ratio.
So until building inspectors test building shells with a blower door, take quality and performance into your own hands and TEST the building BEFORE the drywall goes on. This simple 3rd party test can save you lots of grief in the long run and ensure the home owner is left with lasting beauty no matter which way energy prices go. To those of you who already know the value of testing, not just ‘inspecting’, we raise a full glass to your continued health!