The Alberta Energy Code for Buildings will come into effect on November 1, 2015. The new code has been adopted from the National Energy Code for Buildings (2011), and will require a significant increase in building performance over current industry practices within the province. In fact, many of today’s conventional designs, including curtain wall systems, will be hard pressed to meet the new requirements without an expert understanding of the new code, energy modeling tools, and detailed design reviews. With three possible ways of meeting the new code, building owners and project teams need to understand the requirements and challenges of each compliance path in order to minimize costly redesigns and maximize returns on investment.
The code will apply to new construction and additions under Part 3 of the National Building Code – mainly larger commercial and residential buildings – and will set performance standards for building envelope, lighting, HVAC, service-water heating, and electrical power systems and motors.
There are three paths available to demonstrate compliance to the new Alberta Energy Code:
Prescriptive Path: Adherence to a set of mandatory prescriptive design requirements
Trade-off Path: If a certain prescriptive requirement cannot be achieved, a qualified professional may demonstrate equivalency through simple design trade-offs within a specific building system (e.g., envelope).
Performance Path: Overall building performance and code compliance is verified through energy modeling software.
MMM Group’s buildings sustainability team has reviewed the new Alberta Energy Code, and has identified some key challenges and opportunities:
Any building requesting a construction permit after November 1, 2015 will have to comply with the new energy code. Project teams should commission an analysis of their projects’ compliance with the new code to prevent costly redesigns.
While the Prescriptive Path is appealing in its simplicity, MMM has noted it requires several stringent design measures that are well beyond current industry practices. For example, a building in Calgary will require R-27 effective wall insulation and a maximum window- and door-to-wall ratio of 33%.
The following common construction practices will typically not meet the Prescriptive Path:
- predominantly curtain-wall and/or window-wall facades
- wall assemblies that utilize z-girts or other metal framing systems to structurally bear the load of the wall finishing system
- high fenestration–to-wall ratio facades
The Trade-off Path offers some flexibility in meeting the prescriptive requirements; however, trade-offs can only be made within a specific building system. For example, design teams will be able to trade-off wall insulation for window area, but will not be able to offset an under-designed envelope with an efficient heating system.
While the Performance Path does require additional effort up front in the form of energy modeling, it offers the most design flexibility, allowing trade-offs among all building systems. MMM has found that, once energy modeling becomes a part of the design process, exceeding the minimum code requirements is often cost-effective and desirable. Using energy modeling as a design tool early on in the process can also minimize costly redesigns and the need to introduce expensive technologies at the end of design.
MMM, an industry leader in energy modeling and the design of high-performance buildings, has extensive experience within the Alberta market. One of the largest building sustainability teams in the country, we have offices in Calgary and Edmonton staffed by team members who care about making a difference in their communities by offering technically superior and sustainable solutions. We have helped design more than 283 LEED certified buildings across Canada, all of which achieved similar, or better, performance than that requested by the new Alberta Energy Code. We are also active industry advisors to many associations, including being the approved CanQUEST instructor for the Canada Green Building Association in Alberta. Based on our extensive experience, we have developed a tried-and-tested approach to efficient building design that can help you meet the requirements of the new Alberta Energy Code:
Concept Support: Recommend efficiency measures based on past similar projects, perform what-if analyses of various design scenarios, and work with the design team to converge on an optimum energy efficiency strategy for the project
Design Reviews: Review the design drawings against the original energy strategy to alert the team to any deviations, and suggest alternative options where appropriate
Code Compliance Verification: Draft a letter to the building code authority, declaring conformance to the energy code, along with supporting documentation substantiating the building’s performance and the methodology used to demonstrate compliance.
If you have questions or would like to speak to us about how Alberta’s energy code might affect your project, we would be happy to assist you.