Home Owners: LEED certification to be ready here within a year
Posted in June's Kelowna Real Estate Blog on August 25, 2007
The Canada Green Building Council will introduce a rigorous new home certification program a year ahead of schedule by piggybacking on a U.S. pilot project instead of conducting one of its own.
Some Canadian homebuilders were so eager for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes program that they joined the American project, said Derek Satnik, chairman of the council subcommittee dealing with the issue.
"The biggest concern we have is that there is so much interest that if we don't move quickly, we'll fall behind the industry," said Satnik, managing partner of Mindscape Innovations, a consulting firm for energy-efficient buildings. "The demand is already there."
Developed in the U.S., the LEED program has come to Canada in stages, with commercial, institutional, industrial and multi-unit residential certification now in place. With increasing concern over environmental issues, there's been growing demand for the individual homes component, which has been tested in the U.S. for two years and is due to be formally launched in November, said council vice-chairman Andrew Pride, also vice-president of energy management for Minto Homes.
"We're going to take the U.S. program and make it Canadian," he said.
The U.S. expected 50 builders and 300 homes to be certified under the pilot project, but ended up with about 400 builders and 6,000 homes, Pride said.
"Rather than trying to market LEED for Homes and create demand for it, they've been trying to manage the demand and grow fast enough to meet it," Satnik said. "There's been no lack of interest. We're already seeing the same in Canada."
LEED buildings go beyond energy efficiency to award points for water management, construction waste management, enviro-friendly materials, indoor air quality and sustainable building sites. There are four levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
The first Canadian LEED single-family home, built by Reid's Heritage Homes in Guelph, Ont., received platinum certification this summer through the U.S. pilot project. It registered 91.5 on the zero-to-100 energy efficiency scale.
"We're seriously looking at, within a year, developing a process where we can actually do LEED certification on every single-detached home," said Andrew Oding, Reid's manager of product development. "It will be feasible. It's not pie in the sky."
LEED for Homes appeals to retired engineer Peter Nelson, who is planning a home near Perth, Ont. with solar thermal panels for hot water, photovoltaic panels for electricity generation, geothermal heat, insulated-concrete form foundation and walls, rainwater collection, and native plants in the landscaping. He's studied the American LEED requirements and believes they're doable, although he'll wait to see how expensive certification is before going that route.
"I certainly want the house to have some certifiable measurement, so anyone who wants to buy it in the future sees what they're getting," Nelson said. "Every house should be built this way and will need to be in the not-too-distant future. And what the heck -- it's a challenge."
Last week, the council invited Canadian homebuilders registered with the American pilot project to use their experience to help write the Canadian standards for LEED for Homes, expected to be formally launched here next June, said Pride.
The council also wants input from builders involved in other energy-efficiency programs such as Energy Star in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Built Green in Alberta and B.C., Novoclimat in Quebec, Yukon GreenHome, Power Smart in Manitoba and B.C., plus the national R-2000 program. The 12 builders now constructing net-zero-energy demonstration homes across Canada could also provide valuable information, said Pride.
"The whole idea of LEED is not to push away all the other rating systems, it's really to gather them all together and say 'Let's put this under one hat,' " said Pride. Together they will determine what changes or additions are needed to make an Energy Star or Built Green home certifiable under LEED.
Built Green, which has certified about 4,800 homes in Alberta and B.C. since it began in Calgary in 2003, is on the committee to help develop the Canadian standards, said Built Green president David Bengert.
"We ultimately have the same goals," he said. "We're supportive of any program whose goal is to improve energy efficiency and environmental impact."
Builders are attracted to LEED because it has integrity, is industry-driven rather than by government, and offers a lot of technical support, Oding said. After they've gone through the process once, builders find it's not as daunting as they expected. "It's all about building a better house," he said. "I think it's going to be a success."
(prepared by Kathryn Young/Vancouver Sun)
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