Environment - Climate Change

October 11, 2022 Published by Golden Horseshoe Chapter - By Ron Gizzie

Energy Audits Mean Savings and that Just Makes Sense

From the Volume 13, Fall 2022 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine

In today’s construction environment, commercial, and especially institutional buildings using public funds are being built to lofty standards of energy usage. These buildings are constructed to the tightest tolerances of energy usage such as Passive House, LEED Gold and Platinum, and the now ascendant NetZero standard. But there is one type of building that often lags behind – condominiums.

In the hyper-competitive real estate development market, builders are not competing to build the best building for the environment, or the best building for future residents, but they are certainly building them fast. The market is just starting to cool off, but what is not cooling down are the buildings. How then can condominium corporations keep up with public buildings who are dominating the world of energy efficiency with their near-unlimited public tax dollars, and why should they even bother to get into the race? The answer is that ‘it just makes sense,’ dollars and cents.

Condominium towers and even low-rise buildings are practically built to waste energy. They are tall and covered in balconies which radiate heat into the atmosphere or absorb it with their near 100% coverage in glass windows. And worse, the mechanical systems installed in such buildings are not exactly built with conservation in mind. But there is a ray of hope in all of this; there is room for improvement. And that’s where Cion comes in.

An energy audit is the perfect starting place to determine what your condominium building can do to save on energy. These savings not only translate into a reduction in waste heat, and therefore less overall fuel consumption both at the building and through the power grid, but they translate into lower bills for the consumers as well. That means you, and that means the residents of your building. What, then, is the cost of such a process? The answer is, not much.

Energy audits have been standardized by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) into a format that evaluates a building’s overall electricity and gas consumption. It breaks this consumption down based on systems: lighting, hot water, and air conditioning systems, to name a few. Then the engineer develops as many ideas as one can think up – practical or not – to reduce said energy consumption.

These ideas are then boiled down to a shortlist of the best, and those are then evaluated both scientifically and in terms of cost. Finally, that cost of each energy efficiency measure (EEM, for short) is evaluated in terms of its payback period. As in, how long until you, the consumer, see savings from the work to be performed. Depending on how long the Board of Directors is willing to wait for the investment to pay off, some or all of these EEMs can be implemented to improve the building.

For condominiums, this means that an energy audit is a modest and probably very worthwhile investment into what could be very beneficial to a building. Not only does the Condominium Corporation get to promote this sustainability to their residents, but the reduction in energy usage means that there is a tangible benefit to this altruistic work.

Insurance companies are now broadening their scope of evaluation for buildings to include social and environmental stewardship. Who knows why that is allowed? But, it’s certainly something that corporations can take advantage of following a simple and practical energy audit. In Cion’s experience, the scope of insurance reviews also includes waste and water audits. These are geared towards reduction in water usage (a big problem) and waste to landfills, respectively.

The time of standards allowing certain energy hogging building systems to remain is coming swiftly to a close. With Cion we hope that you will consider an energy audit in the future as these, and even stricter standards, come into force. It just makes sense cents.

Ron Gizzie (B.A.Sc. Honours Mechanical Engineering, P. Eng.) has a decade of mechanical engineering experience including rehabilitation, building assessment and new construction projects. Ron heads up the mechanical department for Cion - Engineers & Building Scientists. His areas of expertise include HVAC and plumbing design, project management, energy analysis, mechanical investigations, condition assessments and energy audits. Ron hopes to utilize his expansive knowledge to revolutionize how owners think about and operate their buildings, beyond simple environmental governance into true smart stewardship.


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