As part of a commitment to make our home more efficient and
save money at the same time, I may have to get out and load the caulking gun as
we move from the assessment phase of the Whistler Green Home Energy Grant
process and into action.
Stemming from our home energy assessment, I have been
challenged to deal with the virtual hole about the size of this newspaper which
exists in what City Green Solutions’ Certified Energy Advisor Stan Jang calls
our “building envelope,” and I used to call our “comfortable, warm home.” Also,
Jang has plugged the results of an Aug. 25th site visit and some techno-geeky
evaluations (including a blower door test) into his computer and has come up
with an EnerGuide rating and a 10 page “Energy Efficiency Evaluation Report”
for our home.
Our five-unit strata complex on the south side of Nesters
Market was built in 1980, a typical Whistler townhouse development with wood
frame construction, crawlspaces and cathedral ceilings. Oh, and a lot of air
gaps. Jang’s report shows our home to have an EnerGuide rating of 61, one point
below the national average for a building of this type and age and well below
the minimum EnerGuide rating of 77 contained in B.C.’s new Building Code
released this week. EnerGuide is a Natural Resources Canada labeling program
that helps consumers purchase the most energy efficient products on the market
by comparing the energy efficiency of residential energy-using products —
from homes to washing machines.
Looking at this low rating, I say to myself, do not despair, oh
leaky one. I’ll take on the “Hole in the Wall” Gang with a little caulking and
With three levels of government working together to help folks
like me benefit from energy savings and cost savings — for example, the
RMOW’s Whistler Green building standards provide an efficiency checklist, and
the provincial LiveSmart B.C. and federal ecoEnergy programs provide assessment
tools and rebates — it’s as easy as a couple blower door tests to make a
positive carbon contribution and cut down both heating and energy costs.
According to Jang’s report, our biggest efficiency opportunity
is sealing the air gaps identified through the blower door test.
“In a townhouse, don’t think that because it is an interior
wall you need not worry,” Jang told me as we used our hands to find manifold
breezes coming into our house. “Even though this is an interior wall, they all
eventually connect with the outside.”
The biggest opportunities in our home were not the larger
retrofit investments like new attic insulation (we don’t have an attic), ground
source heating or new windows and doors. Rather, suggested investments include
sealing air gaps, replacing worn-out or non-existent weather stripping, and
making sure our crawlspace gets a little more vapour barrier and closeable
venting for winter. Also, our venerable stone fireplace, even though it has a
glass door, is far from airtight. We’re saving for a new high-efficiency wood
burner, but that’s at least a couple years away.
As of this week, new houses, multi-family residential buildings
under five storeys, and small commercial and industrial buildings must meet new
insulation requirements. Greening the B.C. Building Code is one of the
extensive steps being taken to meet the province’s target of reducing
greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.
For comparison, the difference between a 1980 townhouse complex
and a 2008 one is about 15 EnerGuide points. In Whistler, a number of key
developers have integrated green features into their projects. New developments
like Cheakamus Crossing, Cressey’s Fitzsimmons Walk and a new eight-unit
complex Bosa Developments is building on Blueberry Drive, are examples of home
innovations which include modern building framing, energy-efficient insulation,
low energy ground source heating systems and intelligent design to maximize
existing solar energy on site.
Carson Hamm of Planimetrix Design Group is working with Bosa.
The Blueberry Drive project will achieve an average EnerGuide rating of 83.3
across the eight units. By working with an engineer specializing in energy
modeling and a green building consultant, Bosa has come up with a site plan and
design which will far surpass the new provincial standard for energy efficiency
in multi-family home construction.
“Many buyers now are willing to pay a premium for green
features,” Hamm says. “The average person is now starting to demand some of
these features and they recognize there is a payback over the long term.”
This is the third in a four part series on making Whistler’s
homes more efficient. For more information on the Whistler Green Home Energy
Grants program, go to
For more information on Whistler2020, check out www.whistler2020.ca
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