A proud safety sponsor of Habitat for Humanity GTA since 2013, Enbridge Gas Distribution recently brought together a dozen industry experts for a full-day workshop as part of its Savings by Design program. The group was tasked with finding ways to improve the energy efficiency of 50 Habitat for Humanity homes that will soon be built for low-income families in the GTA.

These “design charrettes” –- brainstorming sessions for homes in the early stages of development — examine a multitude of details that make a big difference when combined.  The group assessed the impact of various mechanical heating and ventilation systems, windows, and building envelope materials using energy modeling software. They also scrutinized the construction process, volunteer skills and in-kind donations from corporate sponsors.

“Sometimes families have to make a decision between eating and keeping the lights on. In the coming years, it’s going to cost more to provide energy to a home than it will to pay the mortgage,” remarked Wayne Dempsey, VP of Construction at Habitat for Humanity GTA. “I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that we build the homes as energy efficient as possible and build a healthy home for all these young children. They are living in terrible conditions right now so by putting an emphasis on reducing the energy costs we can build better homes for the kids.”

At the end of the session, the group agreed upon a set of design changes that can deliver 23% energy savings to Habitat for Humanity GTA families above and beyond the provincial building code.

Builders who can improve energy efficiency by 15% above the 2017 updates to the Ontario Building Code are eligible to receive an incentive of $2,000 per home from Enbridge Gas. Once constructed, the Habitat for Humanity homes’ energy efficiency will be tested—and if they meet the program threshold, Habitat for Humanity GTA will receive an incentive for each home from Enbridge Gas.

“By tackling the energy efficiency of new home construction, these workshops are transforming the marketplace,” says Ian Macpherson, Director of Market Solutions and Demand Side Management at Enbridge Gas, “and making sustainable living affordable for new homeowners.”