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The Acceleration of NET ZERO
Sonja Winkelmann talks to Andy Oding about NZE Housing, and what it means to Canadian builders


Andy Goyda (L), Canadian Builder Lead for Owens Corning Canada, together with Steven Wright (R), President of Wrighthaven Homes Limited, stand in front of Wright's first Net Zero Energy (NZE) home, which used the Owens Corning CodeBord Air Barrier System.
Owens Corning Canada recruited five builders across Canada to participate in building five NZE Communities consisting of a minimum of five homes each. This project aims to double the number of NZE homes built in Canada; homes that over a year generate all of the energy they consume. The project focuses on affordability and market acceptability of NZE housing in a production- housing context, while moving away from one-off research and development projects.

At the Canadian Home Builders' Association's recent National Conference in Halifax, CHBA's Net Zero Energy (NZE) Housing Council held its first full meeting. What emerged was an ambitious and focused work plan.
Founding Council members bring a wide range of demonstrated competence and experience in NZE or R-2000 Housing, as well as knowledge and capability in specialized areas important to the advancement of NZE Housing. The Council was created to support innovation in the industry. The goal is to create a market advantage for CHBA builders and renovators members who adopt NZE technology and practices. The Council also wants to achieve renewed recognition of Canadian leadership in high performance housing. The Council is self-funding and is committed to delivering services to support members' voluntary adoption of NZE housing.
Three key priorities emerged from the inaugural Council meeting:

The CHBA Net Zero Energy Housing Council will continue moving these initiatives forward over the coming year. SONJA WINKELMANN sat down with Council Chair ANDY ODING to discuss some of the thinking behind these priorities. Here's a recap of that meeting:

Sonja: Andy, you've been working with many of the builders across Canada that are motivated to achieve NZE. Why are they so eager to have a NZE Labelling Program? Aren't there enough labelling programs?

Andy: Canadian builders have been pushing the technologies and building science that enable net zero homes for many years. However, there was no recognition of Net Zero. No definition, no third-party validation, no solid volunteer labelling program, and no way for the consumer to easily "get the message." In many ways a Net Zero program could actually complement other labelling programs (i.e. Energy Star, Green Built). This is the intention of our Council's work as we move forward.

Sonja: Will the builders be ready if consumer demand takes off? Do we have enough builders that know how to get their homes to NZE-at a reasonable price?

Andy: What an interesting dilemma that would be! If consumers' energy literacy increases, we might see the demand for NZH homes grow simultaneously. The additional cost associated with Net Zero is still relatively high: 70k to 85k on a 2,000-foot single-detached home. However, the industry keeps chiselling away at the puzzle, developing new solutions, new processes and new simple technologies. This said, if you look at the total monthly expenses in a NZ home, mortgage and utility cost combined, there is a compelling argument developing that a NZ home could be more affordable on a monthly basis.
 
Sonja: As momentum behind NZE homes grows, what's the opportunity for the product manufacturers? Why are they investing in NZE?

Andy: The path to Net Zero homes and buildings offers tremendous opportunities for manufacturers. This is a key opportunity for manufacturers to let loose their innovative teams, developing and vetting new solutions with builder partners. It's also an opportunity to economize and wring every drop of efficiency out of existing technologies. We've seen some fantastic and innovative Builder/Manufacturer/Trade partnerships develop as a result of Net Zero projects. Regardless of which side we sit on in the climate change discussion, there is no denying that such innovation is extremely healthy for our individual companies, our employees, our industry and our economy. It also delivers improved technologies for all builders, not just those at the leading edge with NZ homes.

Sonja: What do you hope to see come out of the Council's work in the next year or two?

Andy: Defining a distinct Canadian technical standard for NZ homes is at the top of the list; this gives us a solid foundation to build on. Next comes a third-party validation process and labelling, so NZ builders can get the recognition they deserve and consumers know what they are being offered. These are the two critical parts that need to be in place. On that basis, we can begin to address the marketing challenge-connecting with consumers and presenting the NZ home options on terms they understand and respond to. If we can achieve these things in the next while, we will have accomplished a lot.

Sonja Winkelmann is the Director of Net Zero Energy Housing, Canadian Home Builders' Association.


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