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Reevaluating our Energy Standards for 2013

Do you see the need for a new energy-performance standard for houses which is even more stringent than the EQuilibrium (Net Zero Energy) Standard?

As we move into another year, we can reflect back on 2012 and decipher our rising carbon dioxide levels; warmer oceans; declining Arctic and Antarctic ice levels; and, increases in typhoons and hurricanes. Fuel burning continues to be the guiltiest culprit of contributions to burning fossil fuel in the U.S. and continues to create bigger issues such as the “Franksenstorm” which accompanied Hurricane Sandy in the Northeastern U.S.

Keith Hanson, a Saskatoon engineer with involvement in housing innovation, has described his particular field of innovation as being similar to a railroad train. At the front of the train are locomotives, innovative designs which propel the train, the middle of the train consists of the “code” houses, and at the rear are the cabooses and obsolete buildings which have reached the end of their useful life. Over time the codes become more stringent; energy codes become more stringent as energy prices and environmental damage increase.

There are a number of homes in Canada which have achieved Net Zero Energy performance over the period of a year. The Ryan and Pam Jensen Residence (near Saskatoon) has achieved annual net-zero energy use. The house (as seen below) consumed 14,300 kWh over its one-year monitoring period and also produced 14, 300 kWh. The owners have done the right things to achieve this: superinsulation, passive solar design, thermal mass, air sealing, heating recovery ventilator, heat pump, and efficient lights, appliances, and photovoltaics.

A new standard should be set for Saskatoon homes which would address not only energy use in the home, but also transportation issues. The average vehicle in North America travels about 20,000 km per year. To supply this energy for a modest sized electric vehicle, about 5,000 kilowatt-hours per year would be needed. In North America, 92% of the households own a vehicle. If we take the data of the U.S. Department of Transportation into consideration, it is time to address transportation energy use.

What would you call the new residential energy standard?

This new residential energy standard is sought after to be called SUSTAINA +5; the +5 refers to +5 megawatt-hours (5,000 kilowatt-hours) a year. Five megawatt-hours a year would be enough to power an efficient electric card over a typical distance of 20,000 km per year. The 5 megawatt-hours should be supplied by on-site energy sources such as photovoltaics or wind energy. The year 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 oil shock, when world oil prices rose dramatically from approximately $3.00 to $12.00 a barrel; now is the time to move forward. In response to this anniversary, the first actual energy efficient space-heating houses such as the Saskatchewan Conservation House in Regina and the Zero Energy House in Denmark were developed. Space heating was the biggest load at the time. Over time, significant improvements have been made in window technology, heat recovery ventilators, air sealing, appliance efficiency, lighting (such as compact fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diode lamps), and photovoltaics. These developments will continue to prosper, but even at the current state of development, the technologies are there to make the SUSTAINA +5 standards achievable. Buildings account for about 40 percent of society’s energy use in North America; a sustainable world will not be without sustainable buildings. For more information on how to sustain your next building for the betterment of your company and for the planet, call Integrated Designs Inc. at 306-934-6818.

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