You might be surprised to know how much housing in Ontario and Canada has evolved over the past 70 years. For example, did you know that in the early 1940s, 44 per cent of homes had no indoor flush toilets and 93 per cent of homes were heated by coal, coke or wood fuel?
While the Ontario government moves forward with its Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) announced in 2016, the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) and its members have been initiating and supporting programs designed to build and renovate more energy-efficient homes for almost 20 years.
In 1998, OHBA and the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance partnered to form EnerQuality, whose mission is to accelerate housing innovation and improve building performance in Ontario. EnerQuality offers certification through these programs:
Energy Star for New Homes: Homes that receive this label are about 20 per cent more energy efficient than those built to the minimum Ontario Building Code standards, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two to three tonnes a year per house. In 2014, 32 per cent of all homes built in Ontario were Energy Star-qualified.
GreenHouse Certification certifies homes that meet high-performance standards in water efficiency, indoor air quality and resource management.
R-2000 certified homes offer both energy efficiency and Green building features that exceed energy-efficiency building code requirements by 50 per cent. Only licensed R-2000 builders who have been trained and certified can build R-2000 homes.
Net Zero/Net Zero Ready Homes: These homes are designed, modelled and constructed to produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis.
You may also come across the term, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This voluntary rating system evaluates environmental performance from a whole-building perspective over a building’s life cycle. As of 2015, LEED buildings have eliminated 1,261,016 CO2e tonnes of GHG emissions annually, diverted more than 1.5 million tonnes of waste from landfill, and have saved 12.8 billion litres of water per year.
And when you’re ready to resell your home or condo, there are also ways to fast-track home energy retrofits, which command a higher resale price.
The OHBA supports the Ontario Ministry of Energy’s Home Energy Rating and Disclosure (HER&D) program, which would require Ontario homeowners to get an energy performance rating for their existing homes, and disclose that rating to prospective buyers. This would ensure homebuyers are fully informed about the energy use in a home before they buy. The province has also recently committed $100 million to help finance energy retrofits, including upgrading furnaces, water heaters and insulation, assisting homeowners in completing Green upgrades.
In addition, the OHBA has recommended the provincial government implement a targeted Energy Efficiency Home Renovation Tax Credit in its upcoming budget that would encourage consumers to use legitimate contractors when making energy efficient upgrades to their homes.
The quest for energy-efficient homes continues, and Ontario builders and renovators are up for the challenge. Much of the innovation and efficiency in homes has been pioneered by new home builders and we will continue to look for ways to reduce our dependency and consumption of energy in new homes.