The vast majority of us do not have the time or the energyor perhaps the willto reduce our carbon footprint. Individuals can feel overwhelmed or helpless when faced with everyday decisions that affect the environment. However, our planet is facing an ever more serious crisis, in the form of climate change, poverty, chemical pollution, to name a few of the most critical issues. We must take action to slow or even reverse these negative changes.
Education on environmental sustainability, and rebates for making green upgrades are positive steps, but these alone are insufficient to drive enough change to reach the scale of transformation that is required. Therefore, it is up to all levels of government to implement rules and policies.
This City of Vancouver's has done just that. Builders and consumers will adjust, and they need a push in the right direction through prescriptive regulation.
Not long ago, Vancouver introduced its Green Homes Program(the "Program"). Under the Program, new single- and double-family homes are required to include a number of green technologies to increase energy efficiency. The City intends for all new homes to consume 33% less energy than traditional houses by 2020, and to be fully carbon neutral by 2030.
The Program requires 11 items be incorporated into new-home construction:
- Specific piping that runs from the water tank room to the attic. This will allow for installing roof-mounted solar panels in the future without having to tear open walls and ceilings.
- Specific wiring that runs from the building's electricity panel directly to an outlet box in the garage. This will allow for easy installation of an electric vehicle charging system.
- Energy-efficient light bulbs such as compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lights in areas such as hallways, garages, and porches. This saves approximately 85% over traditional bulbs.
- An indoor electricity usage meter on display. One company, Neurio, uses sensors in the breaker panel and a smartphone application to track the usage of each appliance so consumers can increase their awareness and adjust their behavior accordingly.
- Window s that meet a minimum performance level in order to help reduce energy loss.
- A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV), which ensures a constant supply of fresh air and transfers the heat from the warm indoor air to the incoming fresh air, reducing heating requirements for the house.
- A higher minimum insulation standard for exterior above-ground walls.
- A minimum standard of R12 insulation underneath foundation slabs.
- The same level of insulation on full-height basement walls as on exterior walls.
- Insulated wrapping on electric-powered hot water tanks and pipes to help limit heat loss.
- Electronic ignition and direct-venting for gas fireplaces.
This appears to be an excellent reform proposal, and requiring local condominium developers to follow the Program would help produce more green homes faster. Our environment needs our help, and Vancouver's Green Homes Program is a good example of an innovative government policy initiative that ensures quick results.
What Makes a Green House Green?