It’s Not Business as Usual

Post date: Jan 29, 2015 1:19:08 AM

I was reading an article in the Jan. 14 Ottawa Citizen newspaper about the Province of Ontario’s 2014 Annual Energy Conservation report released by the Environmental Commissioner that states that efforts to reduce electricity use and electrical demand are falling short of expectations (1). The article stated that utilities in Ontario have had targets to reduce peak demand and overall use, but almost all electric utilities will miss the peak demand targets and half will miss the overall consumption targets. The official press release said as much and more alarmingly, it stated that public interest in conservation in Ontario seems to be at an all-time low. This is of especial concern in the face of the troubling news that we have been receiving of late including the fact that 2014 was the warmest on record with the highest recorded GHG emissions. Canada also ranked last in the industrialized world in terms of climate change record as published by Germanwatch (2) (3).

Improving building energy performance would greatly help to address all the above issues, yet after more than a decade of green construction activity, large improvements in building energy performance seem elusive. This lack of significant improvements in performance is described elsewhere in this site and evidence continues to mount including:

· green building programs that show that the participants’ building energy use and intensity shows little improvement;

· the same green building programs that shows participants achieved very small or no electrical demand reduction;

· a study that reviewed energy efficient high rise condominiums constructed in Southern Ontario between 2010 and 2012 that concluded that the energy performance of many of those buildings was similar to buildings built in the 1970s.

It should not be business as usual, yet the design and construction industry is still operating like it is business as usual and squandering away the opportunities for deep cuts in energy and demand use, especially for new construction and major renovations. The culprits are well-known and already highlighted throughout this website, with the principal one being the propensity by designers to choose performance based approaches and trade-off design alternatives. The general held belief is that energy modelers will achieve savings despite a poor building envelope, high WWR, air handling systems with excessive connected fan power, -despite the clearly defined fan power limitations (90.1-1999 ECB or 90.1-2007 Appendix G)- and on and on. And let’s not forget that equipment sizing for all these so called sustainable buildings shows little reduction because no effort has been made to reduce loads. So in the end, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…..

The sad part is that 10 and even 15 years ago, well known industry leaders like Ed Mazria, Amory Lovins, William McDonough, Adrian Tuluca, heck even Prince Charles, were making similar statements about poor building envelopes, lack of true design optimization and using gimmicks and fads to replace good design. Back then though the sustainable green building design movement was just getting started, so the industry could use this as an excuse, but not today, especially when achieving a low energy design is simply quality designs, paying attention to detail and doing the load calcs. right.

Oh, there are some great examples out there, but these are far and few in between and the impact at the aggregate level is not there and the bottom line is that we are barely improving.

(1) Ontario’s Power –shortage crisis. Jan. 14 Ottawa Citizen

(2) Crunching the numbers. Jan 6 Ottawa Citizen.

(3) Climate Change Performance Index 2015 at