B.C. pitches net-zero energy challenge to developers

The B.C. government will provide financial rewards to several building projects in the province that are designed to the highest level of energy efficiency.

The Better Buildings B.C.: Net Zero Energy-Ready challenge was launched in downtown Vancouver last week at an event held by the Urban Development Institute.

The program has two financial incentives: one for the design phase of a project, the other for the construction phase. The program will provide up to $40,000 to successful design teams to offset the additional costs of designing net-zero energy buildings and up to $350,000, depending on the type and size of building, to offset additional construction costs.

The program begins immediately and is open to projects anywhere in the province.

“It’s a program to support and celebrate net-zero energy-ready buildings,” said Andrew Pye, senior energy efficiency coordinator with the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources, which is funding the program. Integral Group Consulting is administering the pilot project.

Pye said the program aims to familiarize the B.C. building industry with the technologies, tools and procedures needed to get to net-zero designation while rewarding successful projects and sharing expertise and knowledge.

A net-zero energy-ready building is one that has been designed and built so it could meet its own energy needs and could include on-site solar panels or other renewable energy technologies.

The program is available to builders and developers of multi-family, commercial and institutional buildings that are designed to achieve the top tier of the province’s Energy Step Code. Projects targeting the passive house standard are also eligible. So, too, are projects within the top level of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan.

“In order to be eligible, the project has to either be in the process of having submitted an application to a municipality in British Columbia, a permit application, and/or the title for the lands have already been secured,” said Lisa Westerhoff, an associate for sustainability research and planning with Integral Group in Vancouver.

“Basically, (we have to make) sure this is going to be a viable project that is going to come to fruition,” she told a room of developers, designers, consultants and others at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

Projects that already have a building permit cannot apply.

She called the program a pilot project that she hopes will be continued.

The design incentive could be awarded to between 10 and 14 projects, while the secondary net zero energy-ready construction incentive could be awarded to about six projects, she said.

Ottawa’s Natural Resources Canada and the B.C. government’s Forestry Innovation Investment company are also funding the program.

Westerhoff said each application would be assessed by an advisory panel, a technical review panel and a selection committee, including a variety of government, utility, and industry leaders with knowledge of high-performance buildings.

“We want to make sure these buildings also are aesthetically pleasing, well designed. … the kinds of buildings that we want to work and live in,” she said.

The second incentive will offer awards depending on the type and size of the building. Low-rise multi-family buildings could receive a maximum of $100,000; highrise multi-family could get up to $350,000; offices up to $250,000; retail up to $175,000; and institutional buildings up to $350,000.

Westerhoff said the hope is to attract applications from around the province.

“Certainly, we expect to see quite a few from the Lower Mainland as there has been momentum in this direction, but we would very much encourage applications from everywhere across British Columbia,” she said. “We would love to see representation from all the different climate zones and all the different industries.”

She said the application process is not expected to delay development of the participating projects.

“Many of the components that we’re asking for within the application form are materials and information that will have to be produced anyway by a design team in applying for a permit … so we don’t expect this to add much additional burden at all to a design team.”

Expressions of interest will be accepted until Nov 30, full program applications must be received by the end of March and the announcement of winners would be announced in June.

Westerhoff said the payments would be made between 2020 and 2023, depending on the individual developments’ timelines.

Providing incentives now to the homebuilding industry to offset the initial cost of getting to net-zero building standards will be helpful, said Anne McMullin, the president and CEO of the UDI, which advocates for developers.

“This will enable the establishment of some local best practices and knowledge transfer, as well as a robust, regional supply chain so that the entire industry will be ready for this new standard by 2032,” she said in an email.



Reposted from The Vancouver Sun

BC Insulators get JUST Label for social justice work

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BC Insulators are first union to receive JUST Label for commitment to social justice and equity from Seattle-based International Living Future Institute – joining green building architects, engineers, contractors with JUST Label status


Wednesday May 11, 2016

VANCOUVER – The BC Insulators have become the first labour union to receive a coveted JUST Label from the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute – for its commitment to social justice and equity and it’s transparency and accountability

Lee Loftus, Business Manager of the BC Insulators, says it is an honour to be the first union to obtain a JUST Label after going through the application process and making an organizational decision to provide the public with full information about how it addresses social justice and equity issues.

“We are very proud indeed to be the first union to receive a JUST Label and be among many progressive businesses and non-profits in the Pacific Northwest who are committed to social justice, equity and transparency,” says Loftus.

“It is gratifying to have our union join with green building construction firms, architects, engineers, banks, non-profits and others in starting a process where anyone can see how we practice social justice and promote equity in our daily work, with our employees, our investments and our members,” Loftus said.

According to the Institute: “The JUST Program acts somewhat as a ‘nutrition label’ for socially just and equitable organizations…. the program provides an innovative transparency platform for organizations to reveal much about their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments.”

Loftus said the BC Insulators will promote the JUST Label as a positive benefit with contractors who employ the union’s members in a wide variety of commercial, industrial and residential construction in BC, as well as with the public and in the labour movement.

“The BC Insulators are well known for our work promoting energy conservation and efficiency, green buildings and other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption – this JUST Label is an important recognition of our values,” Loftus said.

Lee Loftus and Cher Hanusiak: Save energy and the planet with mechanical insulation

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Published in The Province newspaper, Sunday April 6, 2014

“Waste not, want not.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790

With Earth Day coming up on April 22, we will hear about “greener” energy efficient buildings and alternative power sources like solar panels. But the simplest and most economical way of saving money and the planet isn’t new — it’s old.

The best way to save energy follows what Benjamin Franklin said — don’t waste it — and the way to do that is through mechanical insulation of pipes and other mechanical systems.

Properly installed mechanical insulation can reduce our carbon footprint, lower greenhouse gas emissions, use less energy, cut costs and pay for itself in a remarkably short period of time.

And with B.C. Hydro rates going up 28 per cent over five years and ever-rising bills for other heating fuel, it’s an opportune time to discuss how individuals and businesses alike can save money by cutting energy consumption — and how government can help too.

The Green Chamber of Commerce B.C., the B.C. Insulators union and the Mechanical Contractors Association of B.C. have come together to promote sustainable, environmentally sound approaches to the challenges businesses face today.

Growing a sustainable economy that embraces people, the planet and profit is the Green Chamber’s mission, while the B.C.

Insulators have helped construct energy-efficient buildings for more than 50 years.

Mechanical insulation is rightly called the one-per-cent solution because it amounts to only one per cent of the construction costs of a new building. When done correctly, mechanical insulation pays for itself in energy savings in record time.

For example, if appropriate mechanical insulation were utilized in a new 25-storey, electrically heated residential apartment building, the annual energy savings would be 320,000 kilowatt hours.

That’s 14 per cent of total energy consumption — an enormous amount in just one year!

And mechanical insulation would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions of carbon dioxide by an amazing 58.8 tonnes annually.

The best part is that the payback period for investing in proper mechanical insulation during construction is estimated at less than 2.7 years, based purely on energy cost savings.

A study by HB Lanarc Consultants commissioned by the B.C. Insulators documented these savings and showed how retrofitting older buildings with proper mechanical insulation also pays for itself in short order.

Energy savings for a four-storey, wood-frame residential building 20 to 40 years old would cover the cost of retrofitted mechanical insulation in less than four years.

There are still more benefits: reduced noise through properly insulated heating and cooling equipment; increased fire prevention and better protection of mechanical systems from fire damage; and eliminating condensation and resulting mould, avoiding expensive repairs.

Lower energy bills, significant greenhouse-gas reductions and a quick return on the costs — the only question is: Why isn’t this happening all over Canada? Fortunately, more people are getting the message, including many B.C. municipalities that have endorsed better mechanical insulation.

Unfortunately, too often corners get cut during construction to reduce the purchase price and as a result, mechanical insulation is often inadequate and improperly installed by untrained workers.

The goal of developers, architects and construction contractors is to sell units, not guarantee lower operating costs — but it’s the end user who would see the energy savings benefits.

What can be done to ensure mechanical insulation is more broadly used as a cost-effective solution?

Utility companies are already very interested and can offer rebates for energy-efficient buildings.

The provincial and federal governments should play a huge role by amending building codes to demand best practices and appropriate installation of effective mechanical insulation, while doing the same for their own buildings.

Homebuyers and businesses can still demand proper mechanical insulation in new buildings or look at retrofits to quickly cut energy costs. This Earth Day it’s the easiest and most economical way to go green every day.

Lee Loftus is business manager of the B.C. Insulators union, local 118. Cher Hanusiak is a director of the Green Chamber of Commerce of B.C.