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Toronto Star: New Homes Run as Energy-Efficient Systems

Written by : on Jun 17, 2014

New homes run as energy-efficient systems

By BRYAN TUCKEY Special to the Star
Fri., May 16, 2014

It’s true that they don’t build them like they used to: they build them better than ever.

Today’s builders, architects, renovators and other professionals in the home-building industry have a greater understanding about how a lowrise house behaves as a complete system. And they are putting that knowledge to work to build homes that use energy more efficiently, are safer than ever and can save homeowners money on their bills each year.

With more than 100,000 people coming to the GTA every year, the question for newcomers often turns to whether to buy a new or resale home. One of the arguments for buying new is the quality of new construction is constantly improving.

Innovative features and building practices that reduce energy consumption and environmental impact in today’s new homes include pre-fabricated and modular structural elements, insulated concrete forms and energy-recovery systems that use waste energy to heat cold air and water.

With all of these new improvements, what could possibly make people think that the homes built decades ago are better than today’s homes? Nostalgia, says building scientist Michael Lio, of Lio & Associates.

“It’s true,” he says. “We don’t build them they way we used to. We build them even better. There is a vast improvement in quality. You can’t use sloppy methods — it forces you to build better quality homes.

“We build the very best houses in the world right here in Ontario.”
Lio says that if anyone spends some time in a downtown Toronto home that hasn’t been renovated in years, there’s a good chance they’ll find mould growing because of thermal bridging, single-pane windows (not up to current code), inefficient furnaces and poor insulation levels.

“There is 75 per cent less energy used in a home built today than a house built in the ’60s,” Lio says.

Gord Cooke, another building scientist and president of Building Knowledge Canada, says needs and expectations of homeowners have changed with those improvements in quality.

“We used to wake up to cold rooms and floors in the morning and didn’t think much of it. Now people want to wake up warm and cosy with the same temperature throughout the house,” Cooke says.

And they can have that comfort. There have been quantum leaps in the Ontario Building Code (OBC) since 2006, pushed by energy-efficiency programs, such as Energy Star for new homes, and groups like EnerQuality, which designs and implements green building programs.

The OBC is updated every five to six years with improvements made to fire safety, energy efficiency and durability.

Cooke says he compared the OBC from 1982 with the 2006 OBC. The newer version contained at least 30 per cent more references and requirements from a safety perspective, including carbon monoxide detectors, safety railings, and staircases and windows as a route of escape during a fire.

With improvements that reduce heat loss through windows, doors, walls, attics and basements, plus better furnaces and air conditioning, savings are close behind.

For a two-storey, 2,200-sq.-ft. house built eight years ago, the most recent building code change would present a $500 annual savings on energy use. For the same size house built 40 years ago, it would be about $2,000.

Today’s top builders understand how houses work as a system. There’s no question that new homes top resale in energy efficiency.

Bryan Tuckey is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments. Follow him on Twitter @bildgta, facebook.com/bildgta , and bildblogs.ca.

To read the article on the Toronto Star, please visit: https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2014/05/16/new_homes_run_as_energyefficient_systems.html