Monday, October 7, 2013

2013 Green Building Conference, Kimberley,BC

4th Annual Green Building Conference – Kimberley, BC   November 8th & 9th, 2013

Whether you’ve got a building or renovating project underway or are planning for the future, the fourth annual Green Building Conference in Kimberley BC is the place to be.
This year, the format is condensed to make the conference even more accessible. Our amazing lineup of speakers joining us from across the country will focus on energy efficiency in home renovations and new builds. Join homeowners, builders, designers, realtors, and municipal officials for two days filled with the latest thinking in energy efficiency, resources and inspiration!
Friday afternoon will feature two information-packed half-day workshops: “Air Leakage testing and the Air Barrier System” facilitated by E3 Eco Group, and “Innovations for Present and Future Green Buildings” by conference favourite Professor Tang Lee.  Friday night’s keynote address is open to the public – “Retrofit Revolution” presented by Lorraine Gauthier of the “NOW House Project”.

Saturday will offer two streams of workshops running throughout the day. With many homeowners in this region choosing to renovate, one stream will be dedicated to high-efficiency renovations – including everything from a workshop  comparing insulation options for cost vs. effectiveness, ’ 10 Steps to a Zero-Energy Retrofit’, to the latest on greener standards for windows and doors.  The ‘New Build Stream’  workshops will include ‘ Tiny Houses and Small Space Design’, a workshop showcasing  green building in the East Kootenays, and a Passive House Triplex project nearing completion  near Nelson, BC.
On Saturday, take in the Green Expo, showcasing regional businesses offering energy saving products and services for homes, onsite at the Kimberley Conference and Athlete Training Centre from 10:30 am to3:30 pm.
Kimberley’s Green Building Conference offers exceptional bang for your buck. Wildsight, the City of Kimberley and the College of the Rockies have worked hard to keep registration fees as affordable as possible.  With generous sponsorships from CMHC, BC Hydro and others, we are able to offer Friday afternoon workshops at just $85, and the full conference for only $199 with early bird pricing in effect until October 11th, 2013.
Every year, participants and presenters alike leave the Green Building Conference inspired and informed. Don’t miss this unique event on November 8th & 9th! For more information and online registration go to , or contact conference organizer Erna Jensen-Shill at 250.427.2535 ext. 224.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


And not just on The Game of Thrones.
Now that the BC government's chickens are coming home to roost in regards to BC Hydro, watch THIS for a better explanation, now might be a good time to look at how we are currently building and renovating.
I have lived here in BC for 6 years now and I still can't figure out why our homes are not better insulated. From the powers that be we hear plenty of talk (wish we could harness all the hot air??), but when push comes to shove there is very little action.
 I totally understand why Europe seems to be further ahead with energy efficiency measures, it is price driven and the cost of energy can be expensive. Over here, in The Great White North, energy has always been cheap and plentiful. I fear those days are now over.
The cost to heat and cool our homes is set to rise substantially. I wouldn't expect the current BC government to raise the Hydro rates to the business customers, that's not how things seem to be done any more, no, it will be the consumer who pays for the big Hydro scam. Don't rely on the magical LNG fund either, the pixie dust is falling off that fairy tale by the day.
When I do energy assessments I can generate a page showing the running costs of a home. Air source heat pumps, coupled with a high efficiency natural gas furnace, always used to show good savings over just using a furnace. I am now finding that, although a heat pump will raise the Energuide rating of a house, it can sometimes cost more to operate than just installing a new high efficiency furnace. As, over the last few years, there has been a push by the electricity utilities to get heat pumps installed - look at the generous grants that were available under the LiveSmart programmes, it is somewhat annoying to now find that they are no longer quite the answer if you also have natural gas to the home.
Which brings me back to the insulation topic. In the UK the R value (converted from the European U value) for walls is close to 30. It's colder here, really, so why are we still looking at R 20 anything for walls. I honestly believe that wall construction here should be much closer to R40. This can be quite easily achieved, with some good planning and design work, and can be cost effective too. If you take this a step further and have the heating system designed correctly then, as often is the case, the said system will be smaller and cheaper to install than originally planned and will off set some of the extra insulation costs.
Now, I'm not saying that all houses should be built to Passivhaus standards, but the principles behind this system are sound and these homes consume considerably less energy than a conventional home.
Our energy costs will not be coming down, surely it is worth looking at better insulated homes. As I have told many of my clients, energy efficiency can be made quite simple as if you can keep the heat in the house then you won't need so much for replacement. Good, or better, insulation is probably the most cost effective thing we can do when we build or renovate.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

NAFS 08 and the Canadian Supplement or How to get poorer performance windows for a higher cost!

A couple of months ago I attended an HPO seminar regarding the new window regulations for the BC Building Code. It was very well presented, as the HPO seminars are, but at the end of it I was left wondering just where we are going with really good energy efficient building.
So, the presenter started by saying that the "NAFS-08 standard was developed in an effort to create a single standard for the window, door and skylight industry throughout North America.....except it doesn't"
It seems it became necessary to develop a companion document called the Canadian Supplement, for conformance to Canadian and BC Building Codes. To keep this brief, it means that from December of this year any window or door installed into a property in BC will have to have the following; Canadian only performance requirements, a temporary label with product performance and a permanent label identifying the manufacturer.
To be able to get these labels under the Canadian Supplement means some very expensive testing for windows and doors, no prizes as to where the cost of this will end up. Chatting with some contractors at the end of the seminar the main comment seemed to be "it would be nice if, just once, the powers that be would introduce a regulation that would actually make it cheaper to build a house"
To take this a little further, and I'll say now that this affects me personally, I have always pushed the concept of much better insulation, air tightness and the correct glazing for the orientation of a house. I am a fan of PassivHaus construction and built homes fairly close to this standard prior to coming to Canada in 2007. Energy efficiency is thus simplified into 'if you can keep the heat in, then you won't need so much'. Part of this concept is to install the right glazing. The few PassivHaus builders here tend to look to Europe for their windows as there is a history there for really good performance windows, some of which are certified for PassivHaus. I have had a couple of quotes for European windows for a house I hope to build for me and my wife, just as soon as we can get our present home sold. The quotes took about a week or two to come through. These were windows that were timber inside, metal clad outside, very low U value with a high solar heat gain co-efficient, as there is good winter sun at the location where we intend to build.
Item for item the cost was quite comparable with Canadian manufactured units, the big cost is, of course , the shipping. With the onset of NAFS 08 with the Canadian Supplement, I fear that these European manufacturers may not feel it is worth their while to pay for the extra testing involved, several thousands of dollars worth, to be able to sell in, for what is for them, a fairly small market. If this is to be the case then builders of PassivHaus type houses are being very much compromised. There will then be windows that can be installed all over Europe, up into northern Scandinavia, all over the U.S. and into Alaska, but not in BC.
For my own build I have now had to try and find a window that is, at least, close to the performance I'm looking for. This turning into a nightmare, for sure. So far I have waited for up to 5-6 weeks for quotes, window reps who don't know what SHGC or VT mean, and they should, wood windows are difficult to get and I hate vinyl for many reasons, and the actual glazing not being anywhere close to what I'd like. I am still waiting for further quotes, but this does not seem much like progress with regard to orientated window selection within the Building Code.
The other problem I, personally, am having is with the external doors. Under NAFS08, doors now need to be tested to the same standards as windows. There is a guy, locally, who makes extremely good wooden doors to German standards, that's where he originates from. They are very well insulated and 66mm thick, much more robust than those that I'd normally come across. Again, under NAFS, he will need to pay several thousand dollars to get these doors tested in order to be able to install them in BC. That just isn't going to happen, and the NAFS regulations now will be taking away some of his business, progress eh?
All in all, I'm not a happy chappy, and I'm not alone  in my thinking either. I really think this is somewhat of a protectionist move and is not promoting better performing windows in regards to the glazing at all.

If you want to find out the full impact of these new regulations then just Google NAFS 08, and you will get several papers and presentations come up.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Well, it's been a while since a posting...

And so I've changed the Blog to Smithy's Soapbox and will, hopefully, post on a more regular basis.
As it is now a soapbox I will be blogging just a little more than energy efficiency advice, although there will usually be a link, if somewhat tenuous at times. I have no desire to offend anyone and hope that I do not achieve that. However, there are times when things need to be said, but I'll try to be diplomatic.
I will also be seeing things as an 'outsider' looking in, having lived in two other countries prior to coming here in 2007.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upcoming events

First of all another webinar from Mike Young at City Green, this time on the Energy Star Thermal Bypass checklist. To register click HERE

Secondly, The Green Building Conference will be in Kimberley, BC again this year on May 10th and 11th. I will post more on this as I receive details.

Monday, February 4, 2013


An upcoming webinar with Mike Young of City Green, Vancouver Island, tells of 5 economic ways to get a better Energuide rating when building your new house. Register now;
This is the first of several webinars regarding Energuide, register for your invites too at the above.