Performance Branding is Coming

My father was an electrician and whenever we’d take a drive through town, he’d often point out the homes or buildings he’d wired. Though you couldn’t see his handiwork directly, there was pride in his voice. So too with building energy efficiency.

You can’t see what building scientists obsess about, but like my father, I take pride in pointing out to my kids the homes I’ve had the privilege to work on. It got me wondering, what about the homes just built to the letter of the law?

Starting in 2017 there are only six “Prescriptive Packages”, down from the dirty dozen offered from 2012 to 2016 in Ontario Building Code’s SB-12 . These DIY packages gave spec builders a pass on testing the energy performance of each proposed house. This no fuss idea operated on magic realism: if you followed one of the packages, you’d magically get an energy performance score equal to 80 on the EnerGuide scale using Natural Resource Canada’s HOT2000 software. Package J as it turns out was simply the least expensive for builders to build because it had the least wall insulation; nothing screamed “bottom of the barrel” like a Package J house.

The equivalent of serving canned luncheon loaf at a wine and cheese party, the Package J house gasped and wheezed as it struggled past the occupancy permit finish line. The sad truth is that an estimated 60 percent of homes built from 2012 to 2016 were basic Package J homes; especially the homes of the affluent. Oh the rich irony of a high-performance European car in the driveway of a bottom of the barrel performing home!

Though we’re rid of Pacakage J, like a boomerang it will come back to haunt builders and home sellers as homes get performance rated under Ontario’s Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program. As homes get physically tested and inspected for insulation levels, it will be interesting to see how far from 80 these homes are.

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