Benchmarking and the foundation of a greener building — Renewable

During the production of the Renewable Series we’ve had a lot of conversations about what it takes to make a building energy efficient. In those conversations two major things became obvious: first just how broad the concept of “energy efficiency” in buildings is, and second, there’s almost no way to look at a building with just your eyeballs and tell how energy efficient it is. The story of a building’s energy use is told through much quieter channels.

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The point where these two concepts merge is in the idea of benchmarking. This is what helps us define how energy efficient buildings are in relation to other similar buildings. Benchmarking is the process of establishing a baseline or point of reference from which we can move forward to improve and optimize. Stephani Carter, a sustainability consultant and the subject of this episode, explained to us that for new buildings, “you now have to use the building code as a benchmark and improve from there. Without the benchmark you would not be able to tell how much you have improved.”

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When it comes to buildings that have already been built it’s even more important to understand how efficient they are and to pursue every possible opportunity to improve that efficiency. The City of Edmonton recently launched the Building Energy Benchmarking Program. It’s a program that collects energy consumption data from existing buildings around Edmonton. The data gathered will allow everyone to better understand the energy efficiency of Edmonton buildings, and categorize them by specific age, size, construction type, and property use.

Edmonton is the first Canadian municipality to host a benchmarking program like this. Large building owners and property managers are invited to sign up and voluntarily report their annual energy use. Participants will benefit from technical support, customized building benchmarking reports, tenant education workshops, and financial incentives to offset the costs of commercial energy auditing.

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When you watch this episode of Renewable you’ll notice that we spend the bulk of our time inside the Mosaic Centre, which is where Stephani and her Eco Ammo partners work. Stephani and her partners are early adopters in the world of sustainable consulting in Alberta, and we spend some time chatting about that in the episode. If you want a sense of just how early she was, look at the building standards in 2014 when the centre was being built.

 

“We used a building standard called ASHRAE to benchmark against for Mosaic Centre,” Stephani explained. ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, is an international organization that has several industry standards for sustainable building. Stephani and her partners went with an international reference standard, rather than a regional or even national one “because there was no energy code in Alberta back when it was being designed. Now we benchmark against the NECB,” which is the National Energy Code of Canada, a similar organization on a national scale.

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Check out this episode of Renewable for a look inside the world of sustainable consulting, and find out what it takes to build a business around helping people rethink how we build.

 

*All photos were taken at the Mosaic Centre


 

Renewable is a series about visionaries, creators, community leaders and above all else, Edmontonians, each with a unique vision of a sustainable future in the heart of Canada’s fossil fuel industry.

The Renewable Series Team is composed of the City of Edmonton’s Energy Transition group and the creative minds at Sticks & Stones.

For more information visit Edmonton.ca/RenewableSeries

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