Incentives for energy efficient homes in Sparwood

The District of Sparwood is offering incentives for homebuilders to build to a certain energy efficient standard.

The District of Sparwood is offering incentives for homebuilders to build to a certain energy efficient standard.

Under the initiative, builders are encouraged to participate in Sparwood’s Energy Efficiency Incentive Program. Homes that achieve an EnerGuide rating of 80 or better are eligible for rebates for up to 50 per cent of their building permit fees and 100 per cent of their energy audit fees. On top of this, BC Hydro offers incentives up to $6,000 for a new home.

The City has the support of Megan Lohmann, the Community Energy Manager for the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

“My specific role it to help facilitate education and awareness around the energy efficiency components of the B.C. Building Code,” said Lohmann. “There were some enhancements to the approach that a builder can take in order to comply with the building code, which is to do what is called the Performance Pathway of Compliance.”

The performance pathway is a target for energy efficiency that homebuilders will aim to hit when constructing a home. To help builders hit the target, energy advisors and professionals can perform a series of tests on a new building to ensure it will meet the target.

“They do a reverse pressure test on the home – pull air out of it to assess how much leakage there is, and then they will do another one at the end of construction, and at that point, you can’t really go back. At that point, that is your final product,” said Lohmann.

The District of Sparwood has been on the forefront of energy efficiency by adopting programs and supporting literature.

“Sparwood has sort of gone ahead and taken a lead on [initiating] this process. They have decided that in order to encourage builders who first of all pursue the performance pathway and second of all achieve a high-energy efficient home, they are rewarding them.” said Lohmann.

“They are covering the cost of the energy advisor to do the design review and the blower door test, which is significant, it’s over $500. Then they are rebating 50 per cent of your building permit fee if you achieve a rating of over Energuide 80, which is kind of target for the builders.”

“I think it is a key opportunity for a local government to say we are committed to supporting builders that want to build the best quality homes in our community. They do acknowledge the price of energy and acknowledge that the homes that are being built today are setting a legacy for decades,” Lohmann continued. “They will be standing in the next 20, 30, 40 years and it’s an opportunity to sort of take advantage of the expertise that we’ve got locally and just build homes that are going to perform as best as possible for the residents.”

One Sparwood-based builder in particular stood out to the District of Sparwood as far as making energy efficiency a priority. Tailor Built Solutions, owned by Jason Szykulski, is making a reputation for energy efficient homes.

“I want the homes that we are building to be not so carbon producing [and] to do a better job – we are not doing a good enough job,” said Szykulski. “We just want to build a better home. We want to set ourselves apart a little bit and that is how we are going to do it.”

Lohmann has been creating programs and incentives for older homes to be more energy efficient as well.

“We are going to be designing what is called the East Kootenay Energy Diet, which has been implemented in the past, and we are going to take the next few months to refine it and hopefully hear of more incentives from the federal and provincial governments,” she said. “It’s a really good opportunity for the East Kootenay, particularly the Elk Valley in that we do have an older building stock, a lot of homes have very poor insulation in their attics and basements.”

Lohmann said she hopes to connect with home owners and let them know of the opportunities available allowing them to get “the best bang for their buck” when it comes to energy efficiency.

B.C. Building Codes are constantly updating, making it difficult for builders to know the best policies for the current times. Lohmann and the District of Sparwood are hoping to counter this by supplying information on energy efficiency to people applying for building permits.