This article was originally published in the May/June 1995 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1995

in energy

Canada's R-2000 Standards Get Tougher,
Others Copy Older Program Measures

With some 8,000 homes built to Canada's R-2000 standards since 1982, one measure of the R-2000 program's success is how it's been copied by other home-building entities. Canada's conventional building code, following the groundwork provided by R-2000, had evolved to approach R-2000 standards for energy savings so closely that it pushed R-2000 to implement tougher standards last year.

R-2000 incentives are offered by a few utilities and lending institutions in Canada in the form of cash rebates, and special mortgage rates for buyers. Most R-2000 homes are single-family custom homes, but some tract home builders offer R-2000 as a model option. R-2000 applies to low-rise residential buildings up to a certain square footage, so some smaller multifamily buildings also qualify. Last year the Canadian Manufactured Housing Association and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) entered into discussions to develop an R-2000-Ready designation for manufactured housing units that meet certain strict criteria.

R-2000 is also being used beyond the Canadian border. Japan's 2 x 4 Home Builders' Association entered into an agreement in 1990 to use R-2000 technology. The Alaska Craftsman Home Program is based largely on R-2000 as well. Even an organization in Poland is considering R-2000 standards.

Most recently, the Minnesota Department of Public Service adopted a new building energy code requiring that in 1998, residential buildings must be built to standards that are no less stringent than R-2000 standards. Our motivation was state legislation mandating that the Minnesota energy code be at least as stringent as the most stringent energy code in the nation, said Bruce Nelson, senior engineer with the department. But when we looked around, the best we saw was across the border in Canada. The 1989 R-2000 standards are what Minnesota is currently considering; however, as a rulemaking occurs to incorporate specific requirements into state code, the 1994 standards will be considered. Nelson said Minnesota's current standards for insulation are already similar to R-2000, but air tightness and ventilation requirements would represent major changes for the state code.

R-2000 Leaps Ahead

With the first significant upgrade in technical requirements since the program's inception, R-2000 gave the building world a new standard to shoot for last April. The new standards were created through a consensus approach between NRCan, the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA), the 30-plus supporting partners across Canada, and the 700 active licensed R-2000 builders. In explaining the upgrade, Gary Sharp, a consultant to NRCan said, R-2000 has been right in front with the best of Canadian builders producing the best of Canadian housing stock, and a trickle-down effect has resulted in improving building technology and the industry. During the same period, building codes have evolved and approached R-2000 standards, so it was time for R-2000 to take a step out in front again.

The original R-2000 standards reduced home energy consumption an average of 50% over conventional code housing during the early days of the program. The new standards will produce 10%-15% energy savings over the old standards, and homes built to the new standards are expected to consume 25%-40% less energy than current conventional code homes in Canada.

The upgrade modifies the technical requirements for calculating the energy performance target, will enhance indoor air quality, and adds new environmental measures for water conservation and the use of building products made from recycled materials.

R-2000 homes are the only ones on the Canadian market that are air-tightness tested. This gives the homebuyer a form of quality assurance. An R-2000 home is also considered to be more comfortable, and healthier, and to have a higher resale value. Adding R-2000 features to a home increases its cost 2%-6% over a similar conventional home.

Energy Performance Changes

As has always been the case, Sharp said, Every house has its own specific energy target based on the size of the house, the location of the home, and the type of fuel used. Under the new standards, the annual energy consumption target is still based on the space heating and domestic hot water energy consumption. However, the calculation method has been changed to separate these two components and calculate them individually using their own equations. This lays the groundwork for whole-house energy consumption in the annual energy target, to be phased in during future upgrades, with additional calculations for space cooling, lighting, and appliance energy consumption.

The 1994 upgrade also includes energy credits--to a maximum of four--for the use of more-efficient furnace fan motors (electronically commutated motors), and for more efficient lighting fixtures. The new calculations are incorporated in the latest R-2000 computer program, HOT-2000 (Version 7.0). HOT-2000 can be purchased from the CHBA. A version is also available with weather data for several locations in the United States.

Indoor Air Quality

Build it tight and ventilate right has always been a part of R-2000, said Sharp. Now we're still saying ventilate right, but limit the materials in the interior of the home that could make people sick. Sharp said experience has shown that some types of materials have toxic effects, so the new R-2000 standards have a pick list of more benign materials, in order to build awareness of the role of materials selection for source control in indoor air quality. At least two options on the list must be selected for materials inside the air/vapor barrier. There are specific requirements in the following materials categories: carpeting, use of a medium efficiency air filter, paints and varnishes, flooring adhesives, kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, and wood flooring.

Environmental Measures

Water consumption is expected to be reduced by 35% over conventional homes in a new R-2000 home through the installation of water saving toilets [13.25 l/flush (3.50 gal/flush) or less], low-flow showerheads [less than 9.8 l/minute (2.6 gal/minute) at 80 psi], and faucets [less than 8.3 l/minute (2.2 gal/minute) at 60 psi].

To encourage using environmentally-responsible building practices and products, builders must use at least one material with a high recycled content as chosen from a materials conservation list. Products partly composed of recycled materials must be used either for insulation, roofing, sheathing/drywall, steel studs, or for foundation and/or under slab drainage. In the case of insulation, at least one of the following in either the attic, the main walls, or the basement walls is required: fiberglass insulation with a minimum of 35% recycled glass, cellulose insulation manufactured from 100% recycled paper, or mineral fiber insulation with a minimum of 50% of the material recycled.

--Ted Rieger


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