Canadian buildings to become more energy efficient with new NECB
December 2, 2011 - Canadians are huge consumers of energy, using four times more per capita than the world average. But significant energy savings—and important socioeconomic benefits—are likely when the provinces and territories adopt the new National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB).
December 2, 2011 By National Research Council
Published in November 2011 by the National Research Council (NRC), the new code states the minimum requirements necessary to achieve a 25% improvement over the 1997 Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (MNECB) in the energy efficiency of newly constructed large buildings, such as schools, hospitals and apartment blocks. Improved standards for energy efficiency in smaller buildings and houses will be published in 2012.
An improvement on this scale would be no small achievement. Energy use in buildings (excluding industrial processing) accounts for about 20% of Canada’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As more buildings are erected, the new code’s impact will grow. A recent report by the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition, which was commissioned by NRC, predicts that some 35% of Canadian buildings by 2050 will have been built after today.
Replacing the 1997 MNECB, the new code represents a win-win for the economy and the environment, says NRC structural engineer Cathy Taraschuk.
The code is the culmination of years of consultations with Canadian industry, multiple levels of government and the public. This work began in 2007, when Natural Resources Canada provided $4 million in project funding as part of the federal EcoEnergy initiative. The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes approved the code in the spring of 2011.
“It was a fair, open and unbiased process, and everyone who participated was listened to,” says Taraschuk.
About the national model construction codes
In Canada, building, fire safety and plumbing regulations are the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments. The National Research Council of Canada, through the Canadian Codes Centre, publishes six national model construction codes on behalf of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. Most provinces and territories adopt the model codes as is, or with very few changes, while others adapt them to suit regional needs before publishing them as their own codes.
The provinces and territories were heavily involved in the NECB’s development, so they are more likely to adopt all or parts of its provisions. (With certain exceptions, regulation of building design and construction is a provincial and territorial responsibility.)
According to Taraschuk, the new code is simpler and considerably more flexible than the 1997 MNECB. It takes into account the whole building system and incorporates a “trade-off” approach in each major area of building design. For example, contractors may upgrade the insulation provisions while increasing the number or size of windows and still achieve an acceptable 25% reduction in energy loss.
The new code incorporates 245 technical changes from the 1997 MNECB, but eliminates labyrinthine differentiations on insulation requirements based on construction materials. It is also “fuel neutral”, so its provisions apply regardless of whether a building uses electricity, gas or oil. The code also reflects many new technologies and construction practices.
New provisions include the installation of automatic lighting controls to eliminate the lighting of unoccupied spaces. Other measures would minimize heat loss by mandating the installation of heat recovery equipment in most buildings.
At the request of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, an independent energy specialist used a computer simulation program to verify that the new code really would achieve a 25% reduction in energy consumption in newly built large buildings. Sample buildings included an office tower, a multi-unit residential building, a school, a strip mall, a warehouse and a big box mall. The energy consumption of these virtual buildings was calculated for different cities with different climatic conditions. In fact, the simulations showed that the 2011 code would achieve energy savings of slightly more than 25%, on average.
Taraschuk says the new NECB is objective-based, meaning engineers and architects could use a mix of energy-saving measures to ensure their buildings comply with the code’s minimum requirements.
“We have fabulous architects and engineers in this country who are innovative and will also use the flexibility of the code to pave the way for further advancements in these minimum standards,” says Taraschuk.
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