Did you know there will be major changes to the Building Code in Saskatchewan coming into effect on January 1 2019? Our province is the last one in Canada to adopt Section 9.36 of the National Building Code. This section sets out minimum standards (for the first time) related to energy efficiency for new housing. All new housing will have to conform to these requirements after the New Year. What does this mean to new home buyers? Generally, these changes are a good thing. While new home builders across the country have made great strides in the last couple of decades to improve energy-efficiency of new housing, this minimum code takes it a step further. Now, right from the planning stage, building officials will be able to see what is going into a new home to meet minimum energy-usage standards. House plans will have to show the energy calculations of assemblies such as walls, attics, basements and others.
Generally, there are two ways a new home can achieve desired results. The prescriptive path is sort of like a checklist – if I do this, that, and the next thing from a list of acceptable practices, my home will meet requirements. It’s a pretty simple way to achieve the desired result. Think of it like a “Thou shalt do…” type of list.
The second method is a performance path. That means that you may design the home to achieve a certain certification – Energy Star or R2000, for example. How that could work is perhaps you don’t meet the minimum prescriptive requirement in one area, but you more than make up for it in another. The end result is the home uses the same or less gigajoules of energy than if you used the prescriptive path. It provides more flexibility in design and equipment usage than a prescriptive method.
If you are building a new home, what should you do? First, align yourself with a reputable designer – one who understands how to design what you want, but also someone who understands how to implement the new code into the design. Again, the calculations need to be shown on the plan, so your designer should be able to carry that out. You may want to go with a performance plan, so you will need access to an Energy Advisor (EA.) An EA will be able to use software to model your home and advise how much energy the home should use, and may be able to register the home to be certified under a program such as Energy Star.
If all of this seems complicated, it’s probably because it sort of is. There has been an immense amount of changes headed towards new home builders in the past year or so. Your best move is to contact a reputable builder who can guide you through the process. Your builder should be able to answer your energy-efficiency questions. They will also be able to steer you towards good designers and Energy Advisors so you can get the home you want. And, the builder will understand how to construct the home to be energy efficient. In the end, your home should cost less to run, be more durable, and structurally sound. Isn’t that what we all want?