Imagine you are about to build your dream home. You sit down with a professional to begin planning and designing your new home. What are the things you are most excited about as you begin this process? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it is your Pinterest account, which is chock full of pictures, showcasing the incredible beauty which your designer and builder will meticulously attempt to emulate. Am I right? I thought so.
It seems that for the most part when we set out to plan, design and build a home, we tend to focus most of our attention (and budget) on the features and finishes which are most attractive to the eye. Don’t get me wrong. Ensuring our home looks the way we want it to look is an important part of the building process. Everyone wants their home to look beautiful! What I am suggesting is that we broaden our view of the building process. That we learn to treat the features that end up covered behind plywood & drywall, and beneath concrete & flooring with the same level of importance (or maybe more) as the finishes.
These features I am talking about are things like:
-Upgraded air barrier details paired with proper ventilation, to ensure maximum home comfort and indoor air quality.
-Higher levels of insulation -including the addition of continuous insulation- in all your outside walls, including your basement (and under the basement floor slab).
-Mechanical equipment (furnace, A/C, water heater, HRV/ERV, etc) with higher efficiencies.
-Add in some renewable energy sources (i.e. Solar panels, Geo-Thermal, Radiant in-floor heat, etc).
These features are all over and above the current building code, but let’s keep something in mind here. The building code is only in place as a minimum standard for us to follow, so houses don’t fail. Let’s now look ahead to where the building code is going. Within the next 10-15 years, all of these features will likely be mandatory under the building code, with the exception of renewable energy sources. The building code of Canada sees how important these features are to creating more efficient housing in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately our carbon footprint. And they are acting on it. So, let me ask you something. If we know this information now, shouldn’t we already be taking steps to produce higher quality housing? Why would we wait until it’s mandatory in 10-15 years? Is it because of higher up front costs? I think that we should re-focus our attention, away from the costs and onto the benefits. I don’t really view higher up front costs as a negative, because in the end, you will be saving money on utility bills for the entire life span of the house. Not only that, you will have also built the most comfortable, healthy and efficient house you’ve ever lived in. You can’t put a price tag on that!
Now I know we all have budgets, and that is definitely the responsible thing to do. My challenge to you is to balance your building budget to include more energy efficient features, and dare I say, a little less of the “glamorous” features (unless of course your budget can afford you both!).
Let’s run an example scenario for a moment. Say you are at the cabinet vendor, selecting granite counters. We all know that there are many choices, ranging from affordable to, well, crazy. There is one sample that really catches your eye, and you decide you must have it no matter the cost. Turns out it’s in the “crazy” price category. I challenge you in that moment to remember what you’ve read here, and the importance of investing in a higher quality, healthier and more efficient home rather than breaking the bank on “luxury items”.
Decorating trends are constantly changing, and you may want to re-design your home after some time. What cannot be re-designed so easily are the features which lie beneath the surfaces of our homes. The features which will enrich our homes for years to come.
Jon Wiens – President
Southport Builders Niagara Inc.