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Building Green Q&A

The need to conserve energy will continue to grow as energy costs increase as a result of the reduction of our known energy reserves. North Americans have been identified as the greatest per capita users of energy, and the greatest per capita producers of waste in the world. For the past ten years, the 'dishonor' of being the worst has passed back and forth between Canadians and Americans. In Canada, building construction, heating, cooling and maintenance accounts for more than one third of the energy used in the country. Building 'green' is inevitable... the only question is how green a building will need to be in the future in order to remain sustainable. 

Can you explain the LEED™ Building Rating System?
Does a Green project cost more?
Are there ... Green house?
Are there ... Green Business?

Q1. Can you explain the LEED® Building Rating System?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is a generally accepted performance assessment green building rating systems that cover a wide range of criteria. LEED® Canada is administered by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), a not-for-profit green building association. The goal of LEED® is to develop buildings that are designed following a series of environmentally-sound design criteria ranging from sustainable site development to water efficiency, to a reduction of energy use and minimizing harm to the atmosphere, while making efficient use of materials and resources and improving indoor air quality. What sets LEED® apart from other green rating systems is that it is a much more detailed and comprehensive rating system that includes a third party verification process and that requires green initiatives to meet minimum quantitative standards.

Buildings designed to LEED® standards receive one of four 'grades', each with its own increasingly difficult set of criteria. The 'grades' are assigned based on the number of points obtained out of a total of 70 possible. Buildings can be rated as Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. There are currently approximately 200 buildings in Canada undergoing the LEED® certification process.

Francis Lapointe of Lapointe Architects is a LEED® Accredited Professional and would be happy to discuss the possibility of working with you to achieve a LEED® rating for your project.

Q2. Does a Green project cost more?

A building project implementing green technologies typically costs more to construct than one that doesn't incorporate any green features, simply because it is better insulated and contains additional complex energy and climate control equipment. However, a 'green' project will be much more energy efficient, and as a result, will cost less to operate in the long run than a standard building. Together with our Mechanical Consultants, Lapointe Architects can provide you with the best estimate of the 'payback' period for implementing green technology. It will be up to you to decide on whether you wish to proceed with the installation of energy conserving equipment after we have informed you of all of the pros and cons of the system, including the cost and the expected payback period.

Finally, keep in mind that a green project has intangible values, especially if it is recognizes for its sustainable features. Many companies will exploit the green features of their buildings in their marketing materials, while others selling green products understand the necessity for their corporation to be 'wholly green'. Residential buildings that include green technology are more and more in demand, as evident by the number of home builders now developing sustainable communities. A green house has a greater value than a similar non-green house.

Q3. Are there any funds available to help finance my Green house?

The Federal Government, thru Natural Resources Canada, has been actively encouraging the construction of more energy-efficient houses thru a variety of programs including R-2000, EnerGuide for New Houses and since January 2005, the ENERGY STAR® for New Homes program (Ontario). All of these programs required substantial reductions in energy use and waste. In return, your home is provided with a 'seal of approval' indicating that your home has met the requirements of the program, which typically increases the value of your property. CMHC offers a 10% premium refund on its mortgage loan insurance premiums, as well as extended amortization to a maximum of 35 years (subject to lender availability), to individuals who use CMHC-insured financing to purchase an energy efficient home, purchase a home and make energy-saving renovations, or renovate their existing home to make it more energy efficient. The refund is a one-time payment. The Province of Ontario offers provincial tax rebates (8%) on the cost to supply and install solar and geothermal equipment in existing and new homes.

On a smaller scale, there are several other funding sources available to help make your existing home a greener building. Most municipalities offer grants for water use reduction in the form of rebates for water and energy efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances, as well as rebates from public utilities for using high-efficiency electric lamps. Public utilities also have a series of programs aimed at reducing water and energy usages, including programs like Hydro One's Net Metering program.

Lapointe Architects is experienced with and has participated in the application process for a variety of these programs and we can help you take advantage of the funding available, whether for single or multiple family dwellings. 

Q4. Are there any funds available to help finance my Green business?

The Federal government long ago recognized that businesses and industry are large users of energy and that they have greater financial incentives to reduce their energy use. As a result, many of the funding programs currently in place cater to these larger energy users. Natural Resources Canada is one of the primary managers of these programs, many of which are administered by local utilities and consulting firms.

The Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) and the Industrial Building Incentive Programs (IBIP) are two federally-funded programs meant to encourage the development and construction of sustainable commercial, institutional and industrial buildings in order to reduce Canada's overall energy consumption. Both programs offer grants worth double the value of the energy saving in the first year of operation, up to a maximum of $60,000 for commercial projects reducing building energy use and $80,000 for Industrial projects utilizing a mix of process and building energy savings. In both cases, the building must use at least 25% less energy than required by the Model National Energy Code for Building (MNECB).

There are several other funding programs available for new and existing buildings. Lapointe Architects is experienced with and has participated in the application process for a variety of these programs and we can help you take advantage of the funding available, whether for a commercial property or a large industrial building.

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