LEEP initiative helps builders adapt and introduce new energy-savings construction techniques without breaking the budget

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    Ontario Construction Report staff writer

    Former Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) president Doug Tarry has shared some observations about how he applied an innovative federally-government supported program to develop economically viable energy and cost-savings enhancements for his company’s projects.

    Tarry, president of Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, said at a Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA)  seminar on Oct. 1 that he began building homes using advanced framing techniques as a result of the original LEEP (Local Energy Efficiency Partnerships) project in London, Ontario.

    These techniques involved redesigning above-grade walls by reducing the number of wall studs, avoiding the use of “double plates and cripples for windows,” and other changes from standard practices.

    In his presentation, he said he learned that:

    • “We could improve the energy efficiency of our product while limiting impact on construction costs;”
    • The cost of the wood was about the same;
    • Total insulation value increased by 25 to 30 per cent;
    • “The challenge was getting our framers on board and trained,”
    • “Our move to 100 per cent Energy Star homes was made more affordable by incorporating advanced framing,” he said.

    Advanced framing is one of several examples of LEEP-related advances Tarry applied and tested on three field trial discovery homes in St. Thomas, he said.

    Other enhancements included:

    • Future-proofing the house to make it easy in the future to adapt solar roofs and electric vehicles, without installing currently expensive systems;
    • Under-slab insulation to improve comfort;
    • Ensuring the house is ready for zoned heating systems;
    • Introducing combination of space and water heating systems;
    • Passive solar design; and
    • Advanced window technology/high performance windows.

    These initiatives, said Patric Langevin, project lead from Canmet Energy at Natural Resources Canada, reflect the program’s builder-driven orientation.

    The concept is that builders, with expert consultation, are best able to set their energy performance targets and the program “provides options for improving performance,” allowing builders to choose their approach based on economic feasibility and client interest.

    “LEEP is the builder-driven process to assess, select and field trial innovative energy-efficient technologies,” Langevin said in his presentation.

    Program objectives are:

    • To enable builders to focus together on specific technical issues affecting energy efficient local practice
    • To reduce builder time and risk in identifying and adopting energy-saving technologies that can be replicated broadly; and
    • To collect builder feedback to guide improvements in technologies and practices.

    Langevin said 40 homes were built with the program in the original London pilot in 2011.

    Tarry said in his experience, homeowners received significant benefits from the project, including:

    • Reduced energy costs
    • Greater comfort (Is this floor tile heated?”)
    • A healthier home with better indoor air quality.
    • A quieter home. (Hearing the ensuite clock ticking)
    • A longer lasting, more durable home with lower maintenance costs.

    For more information about the program, email leep@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.

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