Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency - Current Issue

Volume 5, Issue 7

Impressive renovation for the Ecology Action Centre

In 2016, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in Halifax renovated its office, a 1915 Saltbox-style home, with impressive results. The renovation increased office space by 50% while reducing energy consumption by 65%. Designed and constructed through a three-year community engagement process, this 5,200-square foot building is a showcase for environmentally sensitive architecture and renovation in a tight urban setting. It is a reinvented building, ready for its second century of life.

“There’s a lot that can be learned from what we did with this renovation. Once our solar panels are up, we will have reduced our energy consumption by 89%, and will be using just 3% of what an average office building uses. Those numbers seem impossible until you see it done.” - Emma Norton, Energy Conservation Coordinator at the EAC

Located in Halifax’s thriving North End neighbourhood, the building stands as a beacon for the group’s values and goals. This accessible space features world-class energy efficiency and a creative use of salvaged, recycled, and natural materials. It is a welcoming and inspiring space for community members, volunteers, and staff to connect, learn, and work together.

 “Much of the building’s success stems from the incredible commitment of the organization to practice what they preach. The environmental and community values of the EAC are evident throughout this building, and I feel that is what is being recognized.” -Jordan Willett of Solterre Design, the architecture firm that designed the transformation of the EAC offices

From conception through to operation, this project has shown a deep commitment to building greater public and industry buy-in for sustainable design and renovation. Through the dedicated educational efforts of the owners and extensive community involvement, including during construction, this building is an active showcase for what is possible in a deep energy retrofit on a tight budget. 

Lowering the western half of the main floor 42 inches to sidewalk level created a new accessible 300-square foot community gallery and meeting space that boasts 12-foot ceilings and a more welcoming, dramatic and accessible street presence. Large street-level windows open the interior activities to passers-by.

Responsible urban density was also a key focus of the project. The building provides over 50% more space than the previous structure without increasing its footprint. This minimized site disturbance on and off-site, through the preservation of greenspace and the reuse of existing infrastructure, including water supply lines, perimeter drainage, sewage lines, etc.

The renovation took advantage of the building’s orientation and elongated form to maximize daylight, views and natural ventilation strategies. All common and work spaces are within 7 metres of at least one operable window, providing day-lit spaces that maximize natural ventilation and visually connect occupants to the outdoor environment. Low-emitting materials were used wherever possible for paints, adhesives, flooring, ceilings, composite wood and laminates.

The entire building was wrapped in a new airtight weather barrier and an exterior insulation package that improved the walls to R-32. A minimum of 2 feet of cellulose insulation was added to the roof (R-75). Insulated steel door cut-outs were diverted from the waste stream, and the polyurethane foam component was used as sub-slab insulation (R-16). The resulting reduced energy consumption meant that the size of the air-to-water heat pump was minimized.  A smaller, appropriately sized unit was cost effective and reduced required refrigerants.

The post-construction results are dramatic. Whole-building air tightness was measured at 1.4 ACH50, surpassing the R-2000 certification target of 1.5 ACH50. Total building energy use was calculated to be 31.7 kWh/m2/year. The installation of a 7.9-kW photovoltaic array will translate into an estimated whole-building Energy Use Index of 9.9 kWh/m2/year — an incredible result for a 103-year-old building!   For perspective, the typical upper limit for heating demand in a Passive House is 15 kWh/m2/year.

But the energy savings don’t end there. Solterre Design estimates keeping the existing walls, floors and roof saved an additional 40 tonnes of wood, 3 tonnes of metal, 20 tonnes of "mixed waste," and 7 tonnes of drywall/plaster; and the foundation reuse saved approximately 90 tonnes of concrete. According to their calculations, this amounts to an estimated 527,208 MJ of embodied energy saved by reusing the foundation and building, representing over 9.5 years of operating energy.

The EAC carefully documented the renovation process and has published a Green Building Encyclopedia. It also offers guided building tours to a variety of groups and organizations. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour or visit virtually online. This project is remarkably educational and we hope inspirational to others hoping to retrofit their offices across the country.

SaskPower’s Walk-Through program makes energy assessment simple for businesses

SaskPower’s commercial efficiency experts helps businesses find ways to be more efficient and save money on their power bills with a Walk-Through Energy Assessment.  
Once participants sign up for the program, a qualified energy advisor will assess their property and identify a variety of ways to save power and money. The advisor leverages the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® online tool to benchmark and analyze a building’s energy data, which program participants can continue to use to track their energy consumption for the future.
Participants receive a presentation and detailed report on their business’s power consumption and recommendations on how to be more efficient and save money. The report includes the estimated cost of each recommendation, its associated power savings per year and payback calculations. The report will also direct participants to applicable SaskPower incentive programs to help them save even more money. The Walk-Through Energy Assessment Program provides businesses with the information, justification and framework to plan their path to greater energy efficiency.

The best part is that SaskPower will pay 90% of the assessment cost! The total cost varies according to the size of the building. As an example, a 15,000-square foot building would cost just $287. This program is a great resource to help schools, companies and other organizations become more energy efficient and reduce their operating costs.

Lyle Stecyk, Superintendent of Project Management at Prairie Valley School Division, shared his experience with the SaskPower Walk-Through Energy Assessment Program.  

  • Would you recommend this program to others?
    “Absolutely, it is extremely valuable! The report received was high quality and included the data and analytics needed for planning and budgeting purposes. In addition to higher cost solutions, the report also included short-term, inexpensive suggestions for quick wins that could be implemented right away. As a result of the program, we will be installing occupancy sensors in all of our 40 buildings.”
  • What was the business impact of participating in the program?
    “Although not implemented yet, according to the report, upgrading our lighting to LEDs would have a payback period of less than two years, so it was easy to see that it would make financial sense to do it as soon as possible.”
  • Is there anything else you would like to share?
    “The final report was not overly technical and was provided in a format that could be easily shared for planning purposes. SaskPower staff walked us through the report and answered all of our questions. I suggest that all organizations take advantage of this program. For us, the savings realized through energy efficiency can be reallocated to more valuable resources that will have a direct impact on student achievement.”

Programs like this one show how Canadian utilities are working with commercial and institutional customers to help Canada move toward a greener future and a brighter economy.
To learn more or to book an appointment, please visit SaskPower’s website.

New educational resource: Fundamentals of Energy Efficiency! Make your data count!

As organizations and professionals seek to turn their energy efficiency goals into meaningful action, there is a need for a greater understanding of the fundamentals.

Thankfully, there are resources available to help. One such resource is Fundamentals of Energy Efficiency: Policy, Programs and Best Practices, which is now available online and free of charge. The textbook was written by Peter Love, an Adjunct Professor at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. The work is a solid resource for professors and students at colleges/universities, as well as professionals whose jobs require a better understanding of energy efficiency. 

The book combines energy efficiency theory, policies and programs with related case studies, and includes chapters on four provinces: Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In addition, there are templates for typical policy support documents, such as cabinet submissions, briefing notes and building assessments. Visit the Fundamentals of Energy Efficiency website for further information and to download your free copy.

Look into Canada’s energy future with the Generation Energy Council Report

In 2017, the Government of Canada launched Generation Energy – an open and inclusive nation-wide dialogue with stakeholders, experts and individual Canadians to envision what a low-carbon energy future would look like for Canada over the course of a generation. Building on the results of that dialogue, the Minister of Natural Resources formed the Generation Energy Council to prepare this report in order to answer four crucial questions:

  • What should Canada’s energy future look like over the long term?
  • What generational goals should we strive to achieve?
  • What principles should guide us?
  • What are the potential pathways and milestones along the way?

The Generation Energy Council brought together a diverse range of perspectives and expertise to write a report about Canada’s energy transition that all Canadians can understand and relate to. The Generation Energy Council Report (PDF – 13.9 MB) shows us a vision of where Canada could be, if we act on the opportunities of the path before us.

In answering these questions, the report takes a generational view. The focus is on our shared future – the broad and deep shifts occurring in the world’s climate and energy systems, and the imperative that Canada must act now to navigate the energy transition successfully.

This outline of an inclusive vision of Canada’s energy future includes four transitional pathways toward a low-carbon economy. The report will help inform how governments can lead this energy transition and seeks to empower Canadians to play a central role in this process. Take a glance at the future today.

Portfolio Manager: A new benchmark in benchmarking!

The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool is expanding again with enhanced features to help our growing user community. These updates represent NRCan’s commitment to ongoing improvement of the tool. New to energy benchmarking? You can start benefitting today.
Here’s a “heads up” on some of the exciting updates slated for release in February 2019.

  • NRCan will introduce a new 1–100 ENERGY STAR score for Warehouses, providing meaningful, statistically valid national comparison and potential eligibility for ENERGY STAR certification. join the seven existing building types eligible for ENERGY STAR scores and ENERGY STAR certification. 
  • The ENERGY STAR score for K-12 schools is also going through an update, incorporating the latest data available. The update ensures that users get the most accurate information on how efficient their schools are compared to others across the country. 
  • Portfolio Manager will now use data from 474 weather stations, an increase from 142 stations, providing more robust and accurate climate data to our users, particularly those in the North.

REMINDER: If your building receives an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, it may be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification. The deadline for 2018 ENERGY STAR certification applications is November 15, 2018. We look forward to receiving your application soon.

Let us know what you think

Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency is published by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency and distributed monthly to 16,000 subscribers. Our goal is to deliver meaningful news and information about programs, services and events related to energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings and, as well, to share the success stories of organizations that have benefited from positive change. Help us spread the word by sending this link to your colleagues. We encourage you to subscribe to our sister publication that focuses on energy efficiency in industrial facilities, Heads Up CIPEC.

We welcome reader feedback and are always interested in your story ideas.

Click here if you would like to unsubscribe.