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Builders and climate change: preparing for the new economy

October 12, 2017

New development of a house going up.

Responding to climate change is, by many, no longer considered optional. Among many climate-driven strategies - such as carbon pricing and sustainable resource development - a focus on reducing emissions through green building principles is fast becoming the way of the future in Canada.

Building standards in Canada are the result of a broad-based consensus process that reflects input from all segments of the construction industry as well as the public. The National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) is one of five model construction codes that require adoption by a regulatory authority to come into effect.

Nobina Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnics Canada. In an article she wrote for Business Vancouver in June 2017, Robinson makes the point that the economy needs to cultivate builders, not just innovators.

"Zero-emissions vehicles, green and energy-efficient buildings and innovations in the off-the-grid delivery of energy are necessary for Canada to succeed in the new global economy," she says.

Evolving standards

Updated roughly every five years, the NECB sets out minimum energy efficiency requirements for the design and construction of new buildings. It was adopted by the province of Alberta in 2014 and came into force on November 1, 2016.

Research Associate and General Manager of Green Building Technologies (GBT) at SAIT, David Silburn, says SAIT supports builders by offering information and services that align with regulatory standards for energy efficiency.

"Builders are looking for new ways to do things, and we have the knowledge and the resources to meet that need," he says. "Whether it's an issue with the code or working towards a net-zero energy building, chances are we've done it before. "Building energy codes deal with lighting, HVAC, water heating, and also what's commonly referred to as the "building envelope," which is the separation between the interior and exterior environments of a building.

Helping builders adapt

According to the Government of Alberta, the green building products and technologies market in Alberta is expected to grow to $7.1 billion by the year 2025.

"There's going to be a fundamental shift in building code, and builders will have to change the way they build," Silburn says. "We can help them adjust to these new standards, including managing their costs, through training, consultation and product development."

More stringent energy efficiency requirements are expected for the next NECB revision in 2020. SAIT's GBT research initiative assists builders in on-site consultation, trades training for advanced wall construction, energy performance optimization of existing homes, in addition to the passive house and net-zero envelope construction.

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