Hurdles to energy efficiency in commercial construction
We have attended several trade meetings/training this year (CanPHI west, Manitoba Green Building Council, Passive House Design course) and have come to the conclusion that there are some glaring issues with the way we build commercial buildings. Starting with the design process, local jurisdictions seem overly cautious to allow out of the box design for any type of building construction. We have not worked on a single project where we did not have to prove to plan examiners, using the building code, that Passive House methods and details are acceptable. These examiners are more than capable of doing the research and frankly should be more familiar with the code than they seem to be. Another issue at the planning stage has to do with how architects and mechanical engineers are compensated, which is a percentage based on the total cost of the project. How can we expect to convince engineers to install less mechanical heating and cooling if it will eat away their profits? As they are so used to business as usual, it’s extremely difficult to convince these engineers that it’s possible to operate a commercial building at a heating or cooling load of equal to or less than 15kWh/m2 (4746btu/f2). Similarly, the architects could design a Passive House commercial building that would be cheaper to build than a code built one but the financial incentive is detrimental to that option. Until these compensation issues are addressed it will be difficult to realize the energy savings potential of Passive House commercial buildings in Canada.
Added: Mon May 4th 2015