Nowadays when it comes to renovating your home, there’s a lot more that goes into the process than just making it look pretty. We recently spoke to CTV Morning Live about how modern energy retrofits compare to traditional home renovations.
These days, energy efficiency is always top of mind. What does this mean for home renovations?
It’s changed things in a big way. Nowadays we’ve begun to break renovations into two separate categories. There’s traditional renovations, where you might look at your kitchen and bathroom and an aesthetic and functionality upgrade, then there’s what we call energy retrofits. This is triggering a lot of codes and regulations in the marketplace. These regulations can come from the federal government, the provincial government, there are requirements and there are suggestions, and they’re also subject to change pretty regularly. It also means that a new understanding and skillset is required to make these types of renovations a reality.
What would people need to consider with an energy retrofit that they wouldn’t with a traditional renovation?
It boils down to specialization. If you need a plumber or electrician, then that’s what you’re going to look for. Not a general contractor. Energy retrofitting is beginning to fit into that same category. In the concept of general contracting, codes and regulations have a twenty year history. They’ll perhaps improve a little bit every five years, but with energy retrofitting we’re seeing a transition every two years. We’re trying to ramp up and make our buildings better very quickly. This is where the specialization, and the training required, becomes very important.
When it comes to doing an energy retrofit of the home, how do you find the right contractor?
We come back to the idea of the specialist vs. generalist, but we also need to dig deeper and consider the actual work that will be done. Heating and ventilation is very specialized. As is insulation. These are the type of contractors that you want to hire for your project when it comes do doing that type of work.
Does this apply to different types of buildings? We’re at a pretty big job here. How would a retrofit for this apartment complex compare to a single family home?
In the world of energy retrofitting there are a lot of rebates. Those typically apply to single family homes, and sometime townhomes, but not always multifamily complexes. There are some rules and regulations that the government have set around that. When it comes down to it though, in order to qualify for rebates and incentives for these retrofits, there’s a real push toward trade training. Hiring specialized trained trades are starting to become a requirement to obtain energy retrofit rebates. Even if you aren’t getting the rebates, we’ve learned a lot in the past 20 years and you are still getting an energy efficiency upgrade, a building envelope upgrade, and an aesthetic upgrade, no matter what type of home you live in.
What is being done to grow the energy retrofit sector?
There’s a lot of commitments being made by the federal and provincial governments and even to the municipal level. You’re seeing these in the form of new building codes. There’s something we use in new construction called the Energy Step Code which helps guide efficiency in that part of the marketplace, but it’s also creating opportunities in the building sector in terms of knowledge, understanding, and training that goes into these sectors.
When it comes to energy retrofits, would you say that’s a good career path for someone to pursue?
It’s probably not fully understood by a lot of people or taught much in school yet. There’s a lot of dependence industry, and companies like Centra where we bring in a lot of younger people and train them up to be professional window retrofitters. BCIT did recently create a high performance building lab, where they train trades on how to do this type of work. If you think about how many new homes are built a year compared to how many need to be renovated, you see that there’s a huge demand for this type of skillset.
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