By Judy Penz Sheluk
It used to be, if you wanted to build a “beyond code” high-performance home, your only option was R-2000. No longer: There are currently 10 new home label programs and two energy rating systems in Canada.
But what exactly do the labels and ratings mean? In their October 2011 white paper, Assessment Criteria for New Home Labels and Energy Ratings, CHBA noted that “all label and rating systems share similar approaches in a number of areas, including the use of energy efficiency performance measures of some type, professed support for voluntary market-driven adoption processes, and clarity in terms of labelling costs.”
Similar approaches aside, there are distinct differences among the labels and rating systems.
New Home Label Programs
The national share of new homes that carry one of the following labels, or have received one of the energy ratings (it is possible to obtain both for the same new home) has been estimated at just below 15 per cent, rising to 20 per cent in Ontario.
Launched in 2003 and owned by Built Green Society of Canada, Edmonton, Alta.
A symbol and registered trademark of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), used with permission and licensed as a label in 2005 by NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency.
Environments for Living:
A program started in the US in 2001 by Masco Corporation, Daytona Beach, Fla. It arrived recently in Canada as a result of introductions made by the supplier/vendor GE ecomagination to a manufactured home builder in New Brunswick, where it is offered as an option. EFL has no current plans to expand in Canada.
Launched in 1999 by the Yukon Housing Corporation, Whitehorse, YK.
GreenHouse Certified Construction:
Launched in 2009 by EnerQuality Corporation, North York, Ont.
LEED Canada for Homes:
Launched 2009 and licensed by the U.S. Green Building Council to the Canada Green Building Council, c/o the LEED Canada for Homes Program Coordinator, Vancouver, B.C.
Started in 1999 and owned by the Québec Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune and operated by the Agence de l’efficacité énergétique, Québec, QC.
Launched in Canada in 2008 by the Canadian Passive House Institute, Vancouver, B.C.
Power Smart for New Homes:
Started in 2004 and still owned by Manitoba Hydro, Winnipeg, Man.
The first North American label program, R-2000 was developed by NRCan in partnership with the CHBA in 1981, and launched as a standard in 1982. It is managed by NRCan’s Office of Energy Efficiency, Ottawa, Ont.
Energy Rating Systems
Launched in 2007, the Canadian Residential Energy Services Network (CRESNET) E-Scale is an energy rating system intent on the introduction of a Canadian version of RESNET’s HERS, a zero based energy rating system for homes dubbed E-Scale. CRESTNET, an Ottawa-based company, has not yet engaged in any rating activities.
EnerGuide Rating System:
Started in 1998 and managed by the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Office of Energy Efficiency, Ottawa, Ont., the EnerGuide Rating System is a standard system of home energy performance in which any new home built to code would fall between 65 and 72, a new home with some energy efficiency improvements between 73 and 79, an energy efficient new home between 80 and 90, and a net-zero new home between 91 and 100.
Ten assessment criteria were identified by the CHBA for the purposes of the white paper:
1. Reliance upon building science and builder training
Most of the label systems include builder training that is based upon the house-as-a-system approach to building sciences pioneered by the R-2000 initiative although the exact training requirements vary. Exceptions are: Environments For Living, which is a proprietary system used by only one manufactured home builder in Canada, and ENERGY STAR, GreenHome, GreenHouse Certified Construction, and LEED for Homes, where builder training is optional, rather than required.
2. Reliance upon consensus-based development and governance processes
A balanced, consensus-based approach to new home label development was used by the next generation committees that have been renewing the standards for the EnerGuide Rating System, ENERGY STAR and R-2000. Programs such as BuiltGreen, CaGBC and Novoclimat use a narrower definition of balanced consensus; the other programs have no process in place.
3. Commitment to voluntary, market-driven adoption processes
The energy rating target (between ERS 78 and ERS 86) exists in all label programs. However, some of the labels target a performance range, rather than a specific level. With the introduction of new energy performance targets in building codes, label programs will have to re-evaluate their current requirements. Five private new home label programs—BuiltGreen, Environments For Living, GreenHouse Certified, LEED Canada for Homes, and Passive House—also have prerequisites for other sustainability or green indicators that do not consistently require third-party performance metrics.
4. Employ measureable performance outcomes
Third-party validation is obtained from almost every scheme in Canada, whether it is performed by advisers/evaluators trained in NRCan sessions, or by delivery agents. The exceptions are CRESNET, which has not begun to perform ratings, Environments For Living, an in-house program, and a LEED Canada for Homes Green Rater, who could potentially also be an in-house staff person, rather than a third-party.
5. Requirement for independent, third-party verification of compliance
Achievement of levels of high performance in new homes can be attained through label processes that are voluntary, market-driven, and not represented to an authority with jurisdiction as code-ready. However, some municipalities and provinces have mandated the use of a label, using bylaws, development agreements, regulations or legislation.
6. Builder liability and risk understood
A builder may be exposed to liability, or damage to reputation, if a tested home fails to achieve certification in a label program. This risk is common to all label programs, where the builder takes on a contractual obligation to achieve a specific label outcome prior to actual construction and verification.
7. Builder and consumer awareness of the program
The level of consumer awareness of a label or rating system can be assumed, generally, to reflect the level of enrolments achieved by a label or energy rating program. There a marked differences in terms of market take-up among the various initiatives.
8. Product endorsements and conflict of interest
Most of the labels and systems do not endorse specific products or brands, but the Built Green Society’s product catalogue is an exception. As well, the Canada Green Building Council is piloting a product credit in all of its rating programs (except LEED for Homes) which could evolve into a product endorsement of sorts. The use of environmental product declarations backed by independent testing and verification is a slowly evolving process in Canada.
9. Stability over time and builder investment in a program
Since their appearance 30 years ago, voluntary new home labels and energy ratings have provided an opportunity for builders to differentiate themselves, communicate endorsements, educate consumers on building performance, receive training, and adopt market-relevant innovations.
With the pending inclusion of energy performance requirements in the National Building Code that equal or exceed those required by label programs, all labels have entered a period of change. To remain relevant, they must be “reset” at a beyond-code level that is technically and commercially achievable by builders, and provides sufficient value to home buyers to offset increased costs.
While NRCan has actively engaged a wide circle of interest in the next generation of the EnerGuide Rating System, ENERGY STAR and R-2000 standards, and consults with the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) and the Canadian Codes Centre (CCC), most other programs are conducting internal discussions while waiting to see what direction the Model National Building Code and provincial codes will take.
10. Soft costs known to builders
Every program states that it releases its training and administrative cost schedules. The only uncertainty may be the fees and payments of those verifiers, raters and delivery agents that contract separately with builders and owners. As competition between labels, and among independent verifiers and raters grows, there is some likelihood that costs will be set increasingly by the marketplace.
All data within this article have been sourced from Assessment Criteria for New Home Labels and Energy Ratings, prepared for the Canadian Home Builders’ Association by Marshall Leslie, M. Leslie, Inc., Toronto, Ont., October 2011. The complete document is available in free downloadable PDF format at www.chba.ca.