Ontario Construction Report special feature
With rising costs, energy efficiency is a critical tool for affordable housing providers to optimize consumption and reduce operating costs. Since 2016, Enbridge Gas has offered the Affordable Housing New Construction Program (AHNC) to support energy efficiency in affordable housing. The program educates builders and developers on the opportunity to design more energy efficient affordable homes, and provides financial incentives for building energy efficient units.
Both multi-residential buildings and single family housing developments are eligible to participate, says Cam Black, an energy solutions consultant with Enbridge. “A project might consist of 20 townhomes, a mid-rise apartment block, or a high-rise residential tower.”
The AHNC program is designed to help housing providers seeking ways to cost-effectively increase the energy performance of buildings, at an up-front cost they can manage.
“The program provides participating housing providers with assistance from sustainable building experts and energy modellers in a design charrette focused specifically on their housing development. The design charrette allows participants to see how various design choices will save them energy and money.”
According to Black, the design charrettes are comprehensive and project-specific at the same time. They can include details on building envelope, mechanical systems, indoor air quality, storm water, accessibility, green roofs or renewable energy options, based on what the housing provider identified in its pre-charrette meeting as being relevant.
More efficient buildings benefit housing providers through lower energy operating costs, which helps to maintain housing affordability over the long term. Residents of more efficient buildings also enjoy increased in-home comfort, and potential improvements in noise reduction and indoor air quality. “Of course, there is also the reduced environmental footprint,” says Black, “which ultimately benefits everyone.”
Enbridge covers the cost of the design charrette and also leverages its industry connections to bring specialists and energy experts to the table. In addition, Enbridge will provide financial incentives for building projects that achieve enhanced levels of energy performance. Single family homes, for example, must meet the Energy Star for New Homes standard, and multi-residential buildings must be at least seven per cent more energy efficient than required by the Ontario Building Code.
The first AHNC participant to complete construction on its affordable housing project was Thorold Non-Profit Housing Corporation, in July 2017. Black says Thorold’s 14-unit senior’s residence uses 35 per cent less energy than it would if it were just designed to meet Ontario Building Code requirements. “This translates into more than $6,800 in annual energy cost savings, and means that Thorold’s investment in enhancing the building’s energy performance will be paid off through savings in just over five years of operation.”
Some of the energy saving features of the new senior’s residence include improved wall insulation, high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, programmable thermostats, and occupancy sensors – all of which are design options recommended in the design charrette.
“By participating in Enbridge’s Affordable Housing New Construction program and enhancing the energy efficiency of their new senior’s residence, Thorold Non-Profit Housing has made a strategic commitment to reducing energy operating costs and maintaining housing affordability over the long-term.”
Black says feedback on the program indicates that the information participants get during the charrettes is really useful to them. “Particularly the energy modelling,” says Black, “because it spells out the benefits and the payoff of the design choices. Participants also appreciate the incentives because affordable housing projects are usually budget-constrained so the incentives, combined with the modelling really help them to make the case and get buy-in for improving the building’s efficiency.”
Mohini Datta-Ray, executive director of the North York Women’s Shelter, would agree. She and her team participated in the AHNC program in 2017, and she summarizes her experience as follows:
“It was such a wonderful and educational day that brought forward critical information for us to consider in the design to actualize our vision for a healing, therapeutic and sustainable space. Thanks for all your hard work – I’m beyond impressed at the calibre of work and that this program is even available!”
To learn more about the Affordable Housing New Construction Program, visit www.energy-savings-programs.ca/new-construction-program, or contact Cam Black at (416) 758-4748 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .