Commercial builders in Ontario could be in for a rude shock at the start of 2012 when new energy performance measures are put in force under the Ontario Building Code (OBC).
“It is news to a lot of people, even people in the industry,” said Robin Hutcheson, president of Ottawa-based energy and environment building specialist Arborus Consulting. The changes to the OBC, mandated since 2006, have arrived almost unexpectedly for the commercial and residential real estate industry, he said. “That is probably the most remarkable thing, the people in the industry, the practitioners, the architects and engineers on one side, as well the builders are not aware, which I think is the most daunting piece of this.”
“As well the municipalities have not been clear about what they are going to be asking for in terms of proof of compliance,” he added.
This past July, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing issued an update to the supplementary standard to the Ontario Building Code that describe the energy efficiency requirements and takes effect January 1, 2012 for all projects that are seeking a building permit.
The changes to the OBC mean that residential buildings will need to achieve an EnerGuide rating of 80 or better.
With reference to green building contractors Hutcheson said, “For the developers who have been delivering the LEED projects, this is nothing new, it is going to be business as usual.” The Arborus president estimates less than 10% of builders fall into that camp. “For somebody who has been a code builder, this is where it is going to be problematic.”
Commercial builders can follow one of three different compliance paths to meet the new OBC requirements. “They have a number of things to get their head around such as which compliance path they need to take. Do they do an energy model or do they pick the prescriptive path around elements in the envelope. ”
What choice builders take to meet the code will prove important, he said. “As an example, any of these curtain wall buildings will not be able to comply using the (prescriptive) compliance path, they cannot get the R values in the walls, it is just not possible.”
Hutcheson foresees many builders following the prescriptive path to meeting the new requirements because they are not used to dealing with energy models. “If they go the prescriptive path there is the likelihood under many circumstances where the premium costs in construction to meet the prescriptive elements would be more than the costs of doing the energy model,” he said.
“The long and the short of it is they need to hire additional resources and make sure that their house engineers or the people that they use on a regular basis are aware of the (new) design standards.” At the very least, developers should hire an energy modeler to meet the new and higher code standards for energy efficiency.
With the OBC changes, the worst-case scenario is that an uninformed design and build team go ahead with a design that fails to meet the new regulations and in fact has little chance to ever be compliant when they apply.
Arborus warned that 2012 building permit applications would need to demonstrate compliance with the OBC-SB-10 (the supplementary standard) in one of three paths:
1. Meet ASHRAE 90.1-2010 as modified by SB-10 Chapter 2 or
2 Exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2010 by at least 5% or
3 Exceed MNECB 1997 by at least 25%
The first path, which Hutcheson anticipates will be the most traveled route, is the one that contains prescriptive requirements while the other two approaches rely on energy modeling to prove that designs meet or exceed the new requirements.