Ottawa Construction News staff writer
Ten Greater Ottawa Home Builder Association (GOHBA) member builders have taken up the challenge of exploring and introducing new energy saving technologies in their housing projects through the Local Energy Efficient Partnerships (LEEP) initiative.
“LEEP helps builders reduce their time and risk in finding the right energy saving technologies to incorporate in their homes in their markets. It helps builders work together to pull their choice of innovations into the marketplace and become mainstream,” said Ottawa LEEP facilitator Patric Langevin.
LEEP is a Natural Resources Canada CanmenENERGY initiative. Its application in Ottawa is supported by Enbridge Gas Distribution, Hydro Ottawa, Hydro One and the City of Ottawa as well as the GOHBA. LEEP was pioneered in London, Ontario and has been piloted in several other cities.Builders start by reviewing approximately 50 technologies that could reduce energy consumption in the homes they build, Langevin said. The builders narrow the list down to 12 they believe are particularly promising and wish to review in greater detail. CanmetENERGY provides builders with comprehensive five page technology assessments that enable builders to consider their options. Builders use these to decide where engaging experts in the supply chain could have the most impact on their practice.
For the third and fourth meetings, the builders focus on five technologies and typically request that two manufacturers make presentations on each one. The builders choose how and where they would apply each technology, and request that each manufacturer cost the application and answer the questions on the list they provide. This is a great opportunity for manufacturers to work with builders who have already scrutinized the application. To take advantage of it, manufacturers must go far beyond their standard sales pitch and be ready to innovate to meet common builder interests.
At this point, Langevin said, individual builders select two to four of the technologies and apply them in an ENERGY STAR home. They do this with an eye towards broader use in the homes they build. “LEEP is collaborative at the start, to find the right technologies for the local market,” he said. “In the final stage, incorporating the technologies, builders hold their cards closer to their chests.”
The 10 builders participating in the Ottawa LEEP process together construct about 2,000 new homes annually. “There are leading Ottawa builders of all sizes participating, from large and mid-sized production builders right to small custom builders,” he said.
Langevin says he can’t say which technologies will prove most successful in Ottawa. However, to illustrate the kind of impact LEEP can have, he cited an example from a previous initiative in Toronto. During the summer, getting enough cool air to upper floor bedrooms without overcooling the basement is challenging in tall multilevel homes such as townhomes. Research had shown that forced air zoning could both improve comfort and reduce peak power consumption. Practical installations and cost have been barriers to use in tract housing. Through LEEP, builders found ways to simplify installation and reduce costs. This led to the first application of zoning in a large townhome project. A second manufacturer saw its competitor’s success and developed their own air handling appliance with in-built zoning and controls. LEEP helped create market competition in this new product category.
The government doesn’t subsidize the use of technologies through the LEEP initiative. Decisions are made based upon market conditions. During the LEEP sessions, municipal code officials work with builders to consider technology issues that could effect building permit applications. Utilities use LEEP to help consider demand side management opportunities for their programs.
Specific details aren’t announced until the builders are ready, and then they can let the community know about their energy-savings innovations and which innovations they will introduce in future developments as part of their marketing strategies.