John Bleasby 2017-09-20 05:32:59
BC’s Energy Step Code: Too much, too soon? An interview with Casey Edge, Victoria Residential Builders Association Ottawa has mandated that new homes in Canada must be constructed to a Net Zero Energy Ready (NZER) standard by 2030. British Columbia has responded by introducing its ‘Energy Step Code.’ This is “a voluntary compliance path within the BC Building Code that establishes progressive performance targets (or steps) that support market transformation from the current energyefficiency requirements in the BC Building Code to Net Zero Energy Ready buildings.” Many industry groups and housing organizations have looked at BC’s Energy Step Code with envy. But not Casey Edge. The CEO of the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA), Edge has been particularly outspoken and direct in expressing his views regarding the Step Code’s shortcomings. Here is an abridged version of our exclusive interview with him. You see a strong link between regulations to make new homes more energy efficient and home affordability. The CMHC conducted a national housing survey about six months ago and released a report. There’s absolutely no question that the number one issue for British Columbians is housing affordability. The average price of a house in BC is at least $100,000 more than the average house price in Canada. That is the dialogue. In certain niche circles, I think the dialogue is energy efficiency. However, amongst the average consumer in British Columbia it’s, ‘How am I going to be able to afford to buy a home?’ Yet Net Zero Energy is gaining a foothold in many places. Why is that? When we hear that they’re building Net Zero homes in some regions at an affordable price point, that’s because of the land cost. They’re selling lots for $100,000, not up to $200,000 to $300,000. That $100,000 difference in land cost in BC is the cost of your Net Zero. This is a land issue. Promoting Net Zero when you’re getting your land for half the price of other jurisdictions, frankly that’s not very transparent. What are your builder members telling you about the BC Step Code and NZE? They’re already showing leadership through a program called BuiltGreen. And it’s market-driven. My builders tell me, “Casey, we can now build an affordable EnerGuide 80 home,” and they’re doing it. It’s above national code, it’s affordable, and it’s supported by proven practice. So we’re there, and we got there through a marketdriven program, not through regulation. Many think the BC Energy Step Code eases the way to NZE. What in fact is happening with the implementation of the Step Code at the builder level? Right now you have municipalities that, in a negotiation [with a builder], will say, “We want, or we need some level of energy efficiency,” when negotiating a rezoning. Usually the discussion is over density. The developer says, “I can do that because I can make the numbers work.” That’s what is happening now. However, what the Step Code does is enable 160 municipalities to determine one of five levels of energy efficiency, not as part of a negotiation in terms of affordability and density… but as a blanket, “You must build to this level.” And this directly impacts housing affordability, in your view? The government has created the housing affordability problem. They’re in control. In terms of the Step Code and government policy, what we’re saying is the government tells us what to build, how much we can build, where we can build through rezoning policies, how to build in terms of the building code, and how much money we have to give to the government in order to build through property transfer taxes, GST and so on. So how is the lack of affordable housing the responsibility of industry? Where do you think the BC Step Code went wrong? I was part of the consultation for the BC Step Code along with the Other players, so I can tell you about that consultation. When the government does these consultations, they like to meet with other governments because that’s where they get their support from: other regulators. In this case, there were about 20 municipal officials and bureaucrats sitting on that consultation and only three or four representatives from builder organizations [including the VRBA]. And what was the result of these Step Code consultations? They basically said, ‘We’re going to enable municipalities to cherry-pick any one of the five step levels. We’re going to encourage them towards a best-practices guide, to be responsible etcetera.’ However, best-practices guides are not regulations. They are advice, not regulations. And since there is a self-determination policy for municipalities in BC, which is unique in Canada, the provincial government will not override municipal authority. For example, the Minister of Municipal Affairs cannot amalgamate small municipalities without their permission. What do you think would be a more sensible approach instead of these immediate arbitray measures? Our position is this: Maintain a building code standard in the province that is based on cost-benefit in the most expensive province in Canada, along with proven practice. Start out at a reasonable level of energy efficiency that can be supported by affordability, education and current proven practices. Today, that might be Level Two. Then, in five year increments, and based on affordability and proven practice, you go to Level Three. Another five years, Level Four. And by 2030, which is the government’s stated goal, based on affordability and proven practice and by observing a building code standard, you get to Net Zero. And so the BC Step Code is, in your opinion, too much too soon? Here’s my question: When did it become fashionable to ignore the national building code in Canada? I’m not talking about tweaking, I’m talking about implementing extremely different ways of constructing a home. If the national building code standard is irrelevant to that, why do we have a national code standard at all? What does the agreement between the federal government and the provinces mean? You have argued there are more effective ways to deal with climate leadership. My members are currently building new homes with three air changes per hour. There’s no question that building a passive home is going to cost tens of thousands more than what is being built now with three air changes per hour. If climate leadership is the goal, and the majority of older houses have between 10 and 40 air changes per hour, why not address that? Sounds sensible. So what is the problem? The government is not interested in climate leadership. They’re not really interested in housing affordability. They’re interested in scoring political points. What they’ve done instead is significantly ratchet up the cost of new home ownership in the most expensive province in Canada while doing very little to address the climate issue. It’s one thing to build a super-insulated, energy-efficient home, but you also have to sell it to a consumer. And that's the part that I frankly don't think the government appreciates. For the full version of this interview, please visit canadiancontractor.ca and type “Step Code” in the search bar. You will see that the article is in two parts, with links to the other part within the text. Design, protect, build, connect: DeWalt’s commitment to cordless Words from the top matter. So when Frank Mannarino made his opening remarks at DeWalt’s ‘Tough in the South’ North American media event in Nashville, TN in mid-August to explain the direction his company is heading in the future and how it intends to get there, everyone paid close attention. Mannarino is the president of power tools and equipment for DeWalt USA, and he made it clear that the company is committed to the evolving concept of the cordless job site combined with improved tool design based on the company’s FlexVolt battery system. FlexVolt DeWalt’s FlexVolt power package system was announced with much fanfare in June last year. FlexVolt’s ability to automatically change between two voltages gives users a serious advantage when it comes to efficiency by increasing the power and improving the runtime of DeWalt’s 20V MAX tools, thus eliminating the need to invest in a whole new battery system. At the same time, FlexVolt also brings the ‘power of corded’ to the company’s lineup of 60V MAX and 120V MAX tools. The company has built their cordless line out to 130 tools today, and they aren’t stopping there. “We see ourselves at over 150 tools over the next year,” Stephen Blain, commercialization manager for Stanley Black & Decker Canada told Canadian Contractor. “Where there are opportunities to take a corded tool Cordless (it) gives us more opportunities to grow the system.” Weight and balance From a design standpoint it is more than simply being cordless. DeWalt is equally concerned with the weight and balance of their cordless tools and precise fingertip control. After all, many of these tools are operated for hours each day, often in random and unpredictable situations. This is where research and field testing plays a major role prior to rolling out new product offerings. Blain explains, using a cordless nail gun as an example. “A nailer is tool that can be operated above or below your head, at different angles. The proper placement of the battery in the tool is therefore very important. If you put it in the wrong spot, it changes the center of gravity, which changes the overall feel of the tool. You want to avoid making the tool being either front or back end heavy. I Imbalance will result in more strain throughout the day because the user has to compensate for the imbalance.” Social media influencers To this end, DeWalt has established relationship with a number of key end users who give valuable feedback prior to product release, social media ‘influencers’ and real-life construction professionals like Canadians Kieffer Limeback (Toolaholic), Joe Canning (Canadian Carpenter) and Murray Kruger (Kruger Construction). “You develop a relationship with users like that,” explains Blain. “They’ll tell us, ‘Here are the good points, and here’s what I want to see different or what is not up to what I want.’ This is the type of information we need before the tool hits the market.” Don't forget corded However, it’s important to recognize that not the entire tool world is going cordless. Corded tools have their place and always will have. However, technical developments in DeWalt’s cordless lineup have an impact on the corded line up, too. For example, Blain explains the impact of integrating brush less motors in corded tools, an element vital for the power and long battery-life demanded in cordless tools. “A user who is grinding all day isn’t likely to move over to cordless,” Blain says. “He’s using the tool in his shop. He’s all set up for that with outlets and benches. The cord is his system. However, if we can give him the increased power and reduced maintenance offered by brush less motors, we’ve increased his productivity.” Tool storage systems DeWalt’s commitment to integrating all aspects of the job site goes beyond the tools of the trade. Among the many interesting items alongside the new power tools in Nashville were a comprehensive lineup of storage boxes, from the standard toolbox right up to 18 gauge steel worksite boxes. Also of note were the company’s work van racking systems designed to make tool storage organized and retrieval easy. Lighting, WiFi DeWalt also showed off job site LED lighting systems, some with Bluetooth control, which improve worker safety. DeWalt goes even further, offering Bluetooth connectivity software systems and jobsite WiFi systems that allow larger contracting firms to manage, control, and locate tools over the largest jobsites. One soon recognizes that Frank Mannarino’s words at the Nasvhille event opening, ‘Design, Protect, Build and Connect,’ were right on the money. OPPOSITE TOP: DeWalt now offers seven models of 20V cordless nailers, covering framing, flooring and finishing applications. OPPOSITE LEFT: DeWalt’s new 60V FlexVolt cordless 2.5 gallon compressor for pneumatic tools can fire up to 1220 nails per charge. OPPOSITE RIGHT: With more attention being paid to silica dust, contractors will like DeWalt’s 24V hammer kits, with integral dust collector connected to a cordless vacuum. ABOVE: DeWalt now offers a full range of modular heavy duty storage boxes with theft-resistant piano opening and hingers. ABOVE: At the heart of the DeWalt cordless job site is the multi-bank portable power station. It not only recharges, but can run a corded tool for the batteries too. BOTTOM: DeWalt’s code compliant concrete anchoring system boasts a full range of solutions including their new mini-cut anchors for shallow-drill holes.
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