>The ‘Hole in the Wall’ Gang shoots caulk, blows foam 

click to enlarge Sealed Right and Airtight Home energy expert Stan Jang works to make sure less heat is lost through Damaskie's stone fireplace. Photo submitted.
  • Sealed Right and Airtight Home energy expert Stan Jang works to make sure less heat is lost through Damaskie's stone fireplace. Photo submitted.

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 expanding foam.

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 www.whistler.ca/energygrants.htm For more information on Whistler2020, check out www.whistler2020.ca


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