At a dinner party a while ago, one of the guests started asking me about what I do, my job and what project I am currently working on. So of course, the conversation turned towards energy efficient buildings and how much more could be done here in Canada. Well, my guest was not agreeing with me – that would be way to expensive to build such high quality buildings and there would be no way anyone could still afford to construct anything. And that whole climate change thing might not be happening anytime soon….
But then he went on to ask me how the building code addresses the fact that Ottawa is in a seismic zone and earth quakes could happen anytime. I was happy to tell him that in 2006 there was a big change in the Ontario Building Code to improve the seismic performance of our buildings in the event of an earthquake. This of course results often in more expansive foundation design, thicker columns and shear walls, more steel reinforcing and so on. And makes the construction more expensive!
The latest update of the Ontario Building Code in 2012 made big changes to address the accessibility of our buildings for everyone – that means for example wider doors, more clearances in barrier free washrooms, more elevators and the new Universal Washroom, that has to be provided in every new building over a certain size. I think you can agree with me, that this adds cost to the construction.
Strangely this never came up in discussion on construction budgets with any of my clients. No one ever questioned those changes and the necessity of adjusting the design and construction of our buildings to make them safer or more accessible.
Which tells me that if we as a society decide to improve our build environment – we can do it. So if we accept that climate change is here and happening then the question is not can we afford passive house – the question really becomes can we afford NOT to do passive house.