Cost of energy conservation measures outweighing benefits: RESCON

stock image housing modeling

Ontario Construction News staff writer

A recent study conducted by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) concludes that additional costs incurred by increasing energy-efficiency measures may not always be offset by the benefits for new home buyers.

The year-long case study, titled the Super Semi Energy Efficiency Demonstration Project, brings to light concerns regarding the effectiveness of current strategies aimed at combating climate change through enhanced energy efficiency in residential construction.

“Through regulatory mandates, there is a move to fully electrify all new buildings and homes to meet net-zero targets in order to combat climate change,” said RESCON president Richard Lyall. “However, evidence from this demonstration project indicates there are concerns as energy savings that result from these moves are limited and don’t always justify the additional construction price tag for consumers, such as spending over $50,000 to save a homeowner $600 per year on their utilities.”

The findings are particularly important, according to Lyall, as the residential construction industry faces “a perfect storm” of issues.

“As codes and standards are updated, we should not be adding more costs to housing without due consideration as to whether they really make sense, especially considering the looming electricity supply crunch to Ontario’s grid,” he said.

The study, which used analytical comparison methods to evaluate real-world performance against annual energy-use simulation models, revealed discrepancies in energy consumption between predicted and actual usage. Also, the research suggests that moving too far beyond existing building code requirements for energy efficiency may yield a negative return on investment.

“With major policy decisions often relying on assumptions derived from software models, there is growing concern that Canada’s climate strategy concerning homes and buildings may be misguided,” Lyall said. “The study underscores the need for more comprehensive and ongoing analysis to inform policy decisions accurately.”

Christian Rinomato, director of sustainability at Country Homes, the builder involved in the study, emphasized the importance of striving for better-performing homes that are both environmentally friendly and economically viable.

“We are in the midst of an affordability crisis and, as a builder, it is our responsibility to build better homes that perform efficiently and are affordable to operate,” he said. “From the builder’s perspective, we feel hand-tied when programs are forced upon us.

“We are currently striving for 20 per cent better than the building code and believe it should be up to us on how we get there.”

As the debate continues, stakeholders in the industry are urged to prioritize informed decision-making to address the challenges posed by climate change while ensuring housing affordability.


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