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Energy consumption and legislation

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New thermal regulations are designed to improve the energy performance of buildings by limiting the need for air conditioning and controlling electrical demand. New “performance-based codes”, similar to ones that have been in place in Europe for years, are starting to make their way into North American jurisdictions.

The California Green Buildings Standards Code

Published as Part 11 of the California Code of Regulations, Title 24, this legislation covers residential and commercial buildings, schools, health facilities, and state buildings. The code includes a performance-based element requiring reductions in energy use compared to the ASHRAE 90.1 – 2007 standard.

Vancouver Building Energy Consumption Legislation

The City of Vancouver plans to implement a “performance-based” system with hard caps on how much energy a building can consume per square metre. Vancouver’s buildings are nearly 25 per cent more energy-efficient than Canada’s minimum national requirements, but the city still lags far behind such jurisdictions as Frankfurt, Germany, which has had per-metre energy consumption caps in place for years.

This trend in legislation and regulations has created new opportunities for the optimization of conventional design processes. It will also speed up implementation of cutting-edge innovations and technologies.

LEED initiatives

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification system that provides third-party verification that a building was designed and built using methods intended to improve performance in energy savings and water efficiency, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and improve indoor environmental quality.

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998 and is intended to provide building owners and operators with a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. Since then, it has grown from one standard for new construction to a comprehensive system of six standards covering all aspects of the development and construction process. As of April 2009, there were estimated to be LEED projects in 92 countries and over five billion square feet of commercial building space was involved in the LEED certification process.

Commercial vs. residential use

Rebates and Incentives

At the federal, state or province and municipal levels of government many rebate and incentive programs have been implemented to encourage green building standards. These rebates vary and can include the fast tracking of building permit approvals for green buildings, reduced fees for permits and inspections, subsidies of the cost of design and providing free technical assistance. The City of Calgary, for example, provides rebates valued at up to $100,000 for buildings constructed to green standards.

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