WWF-Canada Blog:
Climate


If you build it smarter, they will come

Part two of the National Sweater Day blog series:  Three practical Canadian solutions for saving energy and the climate.

In the first blog in this series, we talked about retrofits. Now, let’s look at how we can build our homes and offices smarter by setting a higher standard for energy efficiency.

An energy efficient future is not the stuff of dreams, nor is it about sacrifice or getting by with less. In fact, we have all the architectural and construction expertise be far more energy efficient – and cost efficient – right now.  Examples abound. In China, the Hangzhou Integration of Solar, Air and Water Technology Corporation has an air-conditioning system powered by electricity from solar power and waste heat. The Campus of Justice in Madrid, Spain, is a building fitted with intelligent sensors that automatically responds to changes in temperature and weather through shading and ventilation.

Gentoo house builder's Hutton Rise housing development in Sunderland, UK Gentoo house builder's Hutton Rise housing development in Sunderland, UK. Hutton Roof sets new standards in green build. Many of the houses are zero carbon, highly thermally efficient and incur minimal running costs. This passivehaus has 300mm wall cavities with super insulation standards. One boiler will heat 8 houses, and it is thought that the annual running costa for heat, light and water will be only £70 per house. The houses are 20 times more air tight than the current British standard. All of the houses have solar thermal water heating and many have solar electric panels. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

Gentoo house builder’s Hutton Rise housing development in Sunderland, UK. Hutton Roof sets new standards in green build. Many of the houses are zero carbon, highly thermally efficient and incur minimal running costs. This passivehaus has 300mm wall cavities with super insulation standards. One boiler will heat 8 houses, and it is thought that the annual running costa for heat, light and water will be only £70 per house. The houses are 20 times more air tight than the current British standard. All of the houses have solar thermal water heating and many have solar electric panels. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

Given that a typical building could potentially last for the 50-100 years, it’s critical we get it right, so we don’t lock-in to high energy use for decades. The most energy-efficient buildings today use 75% less energy than the average home or office, and that means major cost savings all around, in addition to reducing emissions from energy use.

With the right technologies and policies in place, Canada could see nearly carbon neutral homes and buildings in over the next few decades. How do we get there? The federal government can set more ambitious guidelines for building codes through Natural Resources Canada’s best practices for new buildings. These federal guidelines serve as a reference for provinces, which are individually responsible for making these codes into law. Provinces in turn can adopt world-leading standards that will save energy, and energy bills. Municipal governments also play a role in setting innovative energy efficient by-laws, for example, Toronto’s Green Roof program.

A workman fitting solar thermal panels for heating water, to a house roof in Ambleside, Cumbria, UK, that already has solar PV for generating electricity. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

A workman fitting solar thermal panels for heating water, to a house roof in Ambleside, Cumbria, UK, that already has solar PV for generating electricity. © Global Warming Images / WWF-Canon

As a consumer, look out for green building certifications such as LEED and ask about the energy efficiency of anything new that you buy or lease. All of this smart thinking should apply when buying new appliances such as a washing machine, mobile phone or tea kettle. Do some research to find the most efficient model within your price range and try to choose those with the Energy Star or other efficiency labels.

Let’s make our energy efficiency a hallmark of Canada’s economy. The planet, and our pocketbooks, will reap the rewards.

Thanks to everyone who participated in National Sweater Day!  Just because the day is over, we can still do our part to help conserve energy and call on decision-makers to do the same. Learn more about climate change and energy issues and stay tuned for Earth Hour on March 29th