The Common “Cents” of Sutstainable Buildings

There are an increasing number of energy-efficient sustainable buildings and homes being constructed in Canada.

This makes good sense as these buildings are more “environmentally-responsible”, provide greater comfort, save occupants money, and have higher resale values when compared to conventional construction. The environmental benefits of sustainable/green homes and buildings are numerous.  Sustainable buildings improve indoor air quality, preserve and protect our ecosystems and conserve natural resources. When compared with conventional construction,  green homes and buildings use approximately 26% less energy, cost 13% less to maintain, have a 27% higher occupant rate of satisfaction and produce 33% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Natural lighting and improved ventilation positively influence the health of people. The occupants of green buildings are less often sick and more productive.

Contrary to what most people believe, energy efficient buildings can be built quickly and easily with minimal added expense.

A sustainable building is a wise investment that will pay dividends in the long term. The cost to construct a energy efficient building is approximately 3 to 5% more than a conventional construction; however, projected energy savings, higher resale value and lower maintenance costs far offset the initial upfront expense.
As per a TD Canada Trust Green Home poll and a survey by Royal Le Page, 77% of Canadians were willing to pay up to $20,000 more for an energy efficient home. The facts are, sustainable buildings retain significantly higher resale values and savvy buyers know their utility and maintenance costs will be lower than Conventional construction. As well, these purchasers place high value on superior comfort, health and environmental benefits that sustainable buildings provide.

When it comes to sustainability, investing in additional insulation is priority one.

No other aspect of sustainable construction is more important. Starting with the basement foundation, the building envelope should be viewed the same way you would view any financial investment – invest money now to get more back later. You can think of a well insulated home as a built-in hidden savings account. Utilizing continuous rigid foam insulation for your building envelope walls is the best investment you can make. Rigid foam is relatively inexpensive adding about 1% to the cost of construction. In other words, to install 1.5 inches of rigid foam insulation to a $1,000,000 building will cost approximately $10,000 extra. Conventional track buildings do not have a layer of continuous insulation, consequently they lose a lot of heat energy called (Thermal Bridging) through framing members (studs).

Most energy efficient buildings have walls with batt insulation in the cavities, plus continuous insulation, generally rigid foam, installed on the outside. But this is not always the case.

Green buildings can also have ultra-thick double stud walls filled with cellulose or fiber batt insulation. As well, they can be constructed utilizing Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF). ICF walls are very efficient and have rigid foam inside and outside with concrete poured between. Depending on the source of heating; gas or electric and the design, size and location, the monthly savings on utility bills could match or in many cases exceed the added cost of the monthly mortgage payment. For larger buildings with high ceilings, energy savings will be realized immediately. However, for small buildings or homes it may take a few years to receive a return on investment. However, if we consider Manitoba Hydro’s twenty year forecast of at least a 3% per year increase in energy costs the long term energy savings for sustainable buildings are significant.

But “building green” is so much more than lower energy bills.

Currently, the financial incentives received from federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as from lenders can significantly reduce the upfront costs of building green. For example, Manitoba Hydro Power Smart has introduced a new program for Home Builders. This program pays the Builder up to $12,500 when they construct a high performing energy efficient home. The more energy efficient the home, the more money the Builder will receive from Power Smart. Whether you are buying a new home or doing a large renovation, do your homework and become informed about the available energy efficiency incentives. The bottom line benefits for energy efficient sustainable building are significant. Considering long term savings on energy bills, superior health and environmental benefits, greater comfort and high re-sale values….. it doesn’t cost to build green, IT PAYS!

Learn More at