Evaluation of High Performance Residential Housing Technology
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The energy consumption of residential buildings in Canada accounts for 17% of national energy use (Trudeau, 2005). Production homes represent a considerable portion of new housing. In an effort to reduce the national energy demand, the energy consumption of these homes must be addressed. Techniques, methods and materials to achieve reductions in residential energy use are readily available. The goal of this thesis is to show that it is possible to build a low-energy home for less total carrying cost than a home built to the 2006 Ontario Building Code. To show how this is possible, a range of cost-effective and practical-to-implement upgrades are identified, and quantitative projections of cost-savings and benefits gained by the homeowner are generated. The interest in, and demand for, greener less energy consumptive homes is increasing. As oil prices rise, climate changes, landfills become overburdened and water restrictions become more frequent, the public pushes harder for change. The residential housing sector has seen increased demand for energy efficient homes that incorporate green features, high efficiency appliances and mechanical systems. Increased environmental concern has put ‘Green’ in demand. This thesis reviews a variety of North American green rating systems and contrasts their energy performance requirements with those of the Ontario Building Code. The Ontario Building Code was considered the baseline. Although the R2000 program was originally developed nearly 30 years ago it has managed to maintain a standard of performance that has always exceeded the OBC. It has a wider range of requirements than either the building code or ENERGY STAR, but falls short of the LEED for homes program in terms of breadth of environmental concerns. The literature review shows that homes that use 75% less heating energy than a standard house could be built in the 1980s for a mere 5% construction cost premium. When care is taken to produce quality designs and specifications, and to ensure that details are properly finished, these types of homes can be built almost anywhere. Some of the most successful technology and strategies of the 80’s have found their way into mainstream Canadian houses. As a result, the average new Canadian home consumes less energy than its predecessors. The Ontario building code has some of the most stringent thermal insulation and energy performance requirements of all provincial codes in Canada. However, significantly more can be done to economically reduce house energy consumption. A parametric analysis of a representative urban house was performed. This analysis suggests that there is significant room for improvement in the minimum Ontario Building Code requirements, especially with regard to the insulation and air tightness specifications. In 2006 the OBC requirements for above grade wall insulation were increased from R17 to R19 whereas this investigation found that R34 could be justified financially. The fenestration requirements in the 2006 OBC require windows to attain at least R2.8, while this investigation shows that a further 25% increase to R3.5 will soon be financially sensible.