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Town of Okotoks should Forget LEED, build smart and efficient facilities

Dear Editor,

It was interesting to read your editorial and the discussion by council regarding LEED certification. My belief is the $150k LEED certification has value in two ways.

First, as a qualification when selling a building and secondly as bragging rights for the owner.

Neither should apply here.

As the article stated, the recent improvements to the building codes raises the energy efficiency of buildings, including new houses. These are the direct result of the work by Provincial and National Research Councils.

Reading a recent interview with one of the researchers, his basic statement was, ‘unless people tackle the two biggest heat losses – air leakage and the basement – “you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

The air leakage refers to air leaking into or out of the building as well as air leakage in the heating and ventilating system. He said the best thing is to have no basement, just build on a well-insulated slab. It seems to me, by specifying the basic need to have high efficiency buildings and selecting an architect to design such buildings, our staff along with a diligent construction manager should ensure we end up with the desired product. This should apply not only to the Arts and Learning Campus project but also to the low-cost housing project being developed in conjunction with Westwinds Communities.

For the average homeowner, improving the energy efficiency of the home is a ‘work in progress’.  Each time an update or upgrade is planned we should identify an opportunity to improve the efficiency of the building.

Our focus would be as stated above, by eliminating air leakage in the building envelope and in the heating and ventilating system. If not already done, a fundamental change is to install a programmable thermostat. It never forgets. Also, checking behind the door and window trim to ensure the space is filled with foam and not fibreglass is a key item.

I have seen the results of these small improvements over time to be quite significant. It is unlikely energy will be cheaper as time passes. Considering a house built to ‘Code’ in the mid ’70’s and a house built to ‘Code’ in the early ’90’s the energy requirement was almost cut in half.

My vote would be, forget LEED, focus on stopping air leakage, insulate above ‘Code’, including the basement, and supervise to ensure quality workmanship.

Russ Wheatley