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7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

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7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

Can the way we design or retrofit our buildings help the climate crisis? This is a question that lingers in my mind daily. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and trying to reverse climate change has never been more important. Investing in our buildings, new or old, can make a difference. Old buildings in particular present a great opportunity to make improvements.

It has always been a challenge to get people to invest in new sustainable buildings, largely because of the idea of higher upfront costs. Thankfully, because of successful projects like evolv1 in Waterloo — a net-positive, multi-tenant building that recently won the first-ever Zero Carbon award from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) — more people understand that there’s a great business case for green buildings. Not just for the environment but for the bottom line.

While our understanding about the value of green design in our new buildings is taking hold, people are still overlooking all the old building stock out there. For every innovative evolv1 project in development, there are dozens of inefficient existing buildings around us. Most of these old buildings will stand for decades, so what can we do about them today? What strategies can we adopt to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings?

Here are some ideas. Let’s focus on low-cost/no-cost measures. If you follow these suggestions, it’ll make a difference―both for the environment, and for your energy bill.

Don’t leave the lights on

Do you really need to be lighting every floor of your office building all the time? Aside from emergency lights, it makes sense to use control strategies like daylight dimming and occupancy sensors to reduce your energy usage during evenings and weekends. Daylight dimming detectors adjust lighting according to the amount of sunlight available, and occupancy sensors work like indoor motion lights to detect if a person is present.

Program that thermostat

Here’s another easy one. To maximize energy savings, it’s wise to use a variable temperature strategy. In office buildings, set your thermostat to a comfortable room temperature for the mornings and afternoons, when the building is occupied. In the evenings, reduce it. For example, during full occupancy times, set your temperature to 21C (70F). Lower it to 15C or 16C (59F-60F) during off-hours. At home, make sure to use a smart thermostat or a programmable thermostat. Why heat a room that much if no one’s in it?

Close down your fresh air damper

Here’s a related point to the last one. Some building operators keep central fans running for too long, which supply fresh air to spaces when it’s not necessary. If there’s no one in your building during nights or on weekends, it doesn’t make sense to provide continuous fresh air. At night, revert to the minimum airflow required for conditioning the space.

Shut off your equipment

Instruct staff members to power down their laptops and desktop computers at night. Reduce the receptacle power use during unoccupied times. I realize that businesses need to update their systems occasionally, so perhaps you can schedule patch/maintenance updates on weekends for a couple of hours. But don’t leave those computers on every night.

Fix those old windows

Windows in older buildings are often leaky. This leads to more heat escaping from your comfortably conditioned spaces, which means that you need to supply even more heat — and you lose more energy this way. Look into fixing or replacing those drafty windows as soon as you can.

Upgrade your equipment

People often don’t upgrade their equipment when they should. All pieces of equipment have a useful service life. For example, if your furnace has a service life of 20 years, don’t let it run for 30. If you are planning on doing a mid-life retrofit to your building, do not replace your equipment on a like-for-like basis, but upgrade and improve on the equipment’s efficiency. Technology improves every day, so the efficiency of appliances and devices also improves constantly. If your furnace is running at a low efficiency, you’re going to be dealing with some big bills.

Design for tomorrow, not for today

Apart from the cost, look ahead to the future. The temperature will be warmer, so if you’re designing/and or upgrading a cooling system, you need to account for extra cooling load in the future. Design for tomorrow, not today.

A few final thoughts

For both existing building retrofits, as well as for new developments, clients are typically focused on upfront costs. Most stakeholders will prioritize upfront cost — how much is this going to be at the outset? But we need to start considering life-cycle cost and think of how much it’s going to cost to operate the building on a day-to-day basis. Can you save $10,000 down the road by spending $500 extra today?

High-performance and low-carbon buildings will produce lower operating costs than more conventional strategies. Like I mentioned earlier, success stories like evolv1 are helping to change this mentality — evolv1 is a living example of net-zero carbon emissions balanced with a financially viable solution.

These are steps that we can take to help address the current climate crisis, while also designing, building, and retrofitting buildings to be energy- and cost-efficient and more comfortable for users.

Afaf Azzouz is a buildings energy specialist with Stantec’s Energy and mechanical engineering group in Ottawa. She recently won the 2018 Emerging Green Leader Award from the CaGBC of Ontario. https://www.stantec.com/en

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Product Profile: Enbridge

Product Profile: Enbridge Gas

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Product Profile: Enbridge Gas

Savings by Design program improves energy performance and saves on costs

Enbridge Gas Distribution is committed to helping its customers and the environment through delivering and incenting energy education and efficiency programs. Its Savings by Design (SBD) program improves the energy performance of new homes and buildings in Ontario, which in turn helps homeowners and businesses save on their energy costs.

The SBD program is a green building initiative through which Enbridge offers support and financial incentives from early design all the way through construction to assist builders with the vision of constructing energy-efficient, healthy and sustainable homes and buildings that exceed municipal and provincial building code requirements. SBD is delivered with one goal in mind: to help builders and developers achieve higher levels of energy and environmental performance.

The SBD program has assisted in saving over two tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per home with over 7,000 residences having been built to the SBD standard and over 90 commercial buildings in various stages of program participation.

Taking into account the size of the average commercial building, it is expected there will be savings in excess of 27,500 tonnes of GHG emissions as a result of the SBD program by December of 2017.

The SBD program demonstrates wide-reaching impacts with more than 200 residential and commercial builders, their supply chain partners, their customers and their communities having benefitted from the Savings by Design program. The program creates awareness and building inventory that ensures the next generation of buildings in Ontario have the energy and environmental performance commensurate with the province’s goal of leading in the fight against climate change.

Enbridge recognizes that natural resources and green spaces are precious, and we take great responsibility in protecting the environment. To date, its energy-efficiency programs have saved 10.3 billion cubic metres of natural gas, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 19.4 million tonnes. That’s enough energy to heat 4.3 million homes for an entire year.

ENBRIDGE GAS DISTRIBUTION
Savings by Design

Go online to learn more about the SBD program.

SavingsByDesign.ca

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