|R-2000 Home Promotion|
However, as a researcher, I couldn’t help but ponder a few of the data offered in this report. Is energy improvement over existing construction really a valid metric? This seems to be a moving target, and hard to compare. Yet, even measuring against an energy code is also a bit like a dog chasing its tail, as the code is constantly moving. Taking lessons from lean manufacturing, what if we were to evaluate the houses to net zero HVAC load, which is essentially the “perfect” scenario for energy efficiency? This makes the measurement baseline the same for all houses, and is scaled to the square foot of the house? One can assume that very few houses would achieve this (it would also allow for off-site energy from zero carbon sources – such as hydroelectric), but this approach would both tell us how bad the old energy hogs are, as well as where the state of the art is today. It could be compared across all nations.
Another number which I found interesting was the ratio of homes removed – ie demolished - relative to those built. In Canada, in the time frame of 1990 to 2008 that ratio was four new homes built for each one demolished. This was an average number, with Ontario, Quebec and Alberta removing only a 9% of the old stock, and the rest of the provinces in the 20% and above. A quick dig for comparison data in the US found a census document with a similar timeframe of 1980 – 2005, with a ratio just over 3 houses built for each one destroyed (adjusted for mobile homes – which don’t seem to be as prevalent in Canada – a bit chilly eh?) Many questions spring to mind. Why the US is demolishing more houses, relative to those built (almost 30%)? Does the weather allow for more cheaply built construction which then doesn’t last as long? More termites? More natural disasters? And why were the three provinces so low relative to the others? City vs rural? Housing stock materials? Need? Age?
Which leads me to my final observation. In this report, Alberta led the country in terms of new housing, as a percentage of total housing stock, with nearly a 50% increase in the number of units, and yet achieved only a 6.5% improvement in the energy intensity of homes, less than half the national average improvement of 14.1%. Will there be 20% of those homes in Alberta torn down? Or more? How much potential energy could have been saved, both in operating energy and embodied energy, had these homes been built to a higher standard?
Again, let me stress that the report is a positive sign of steps in the right direction. But there is yet more work to be done, more questions to pose - and perhaps new ways of measuring which might inspire even greater improvements.