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HVAC Cold Climate Conference – Part 1: Situation in Canada with focus on Calgary
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January 22, 2013

HVAC Cold Climate Conference – Part 1: Situation in Canada with focus on Calgary

Canada is a North American country extending from Pacific into Arctic Ocean. Canada is the second-largest country by total area with almost 35,000,000 inhabitants. The city of Calgary is the third-largest municipality in Canada and this year Calgary had the pleasure to host the 7th International Conference on HVAC Cold Climate, November 12-14. There were over 140 people attending this conference from more than 15 countries across the world. Here are some things about Calgary and building situation.

Calgary use the provincial code, the Alberta Building Code, which is taken from the National Building Code with a few amendments suited to region and climate in Alberta. The building inspectors take specialized courses which last about 9 months of classroom time to learn how to use the Code.

In the city of Calgary and surroundings there is not much talk about use of renewable energies as it is main source is natural gas. By own words from one of the Canadian representative: “Canada is 20 years behind Europe and EU. This is why I have done my Ph.D. in Sweden, to learn the new stuff you are doing there. For example the European U-values are approximately 10% lower than in ASHRAE. And here in Canada we just use the natural gas as the government has tight connections to the oil business. The renewable resources are really not favoured by the government or as an economic or sustainable renewable investment.”

Dennis Terhove from the City of Calgary gave an interesting presentation on Building Code Regulation 101 – Are regulatory procedures reactive or proactive. Dennis stated nice introduction to his article and presentation: “The role of Building Codes has long been meant to ensure, in one fashion or another, occupant health, safety and access as well as fire and structural protection. But, Building Codes are changing. No longer to simply consider public safety on “traditional” designs and forms of construction, Codes are taking on a role in regulating, from the occupant safety perspective, the use of energy, primarily its loss and/or gain, within our living, recreational, and work environments. Added to that, code developers also address the use of energy in all its forms within these structures. Unlike in the past, technologies and methodologies evolve and mutate much more rapidly than do the codes. Code development cannot remotely be expected to maintain the pace. Nowhere can this role be more evident, or more necessary, than in colder climates. So how can regulators move tangentially from the routine “code cycle” and consider these methods and technologies? It doesn’t, or shouldn’t, stop with a performance based system.”

The typical cycle for building codes in Canada are either 3years for international building code in US or every 5 years cycle of NBC – national building code in Canada. The new technologies evolve too quickly to be implemented in the codes and codes cycle too slow for evolving technologies, i.e. gaps are a cause of unsafe projects. People often rely on “no tell, no permit” or “we are special”, i.e. installing of solar panels without asking for a permission or unsafe way of leading to the unsafety of those around the house if something happens. There is a need to work together to build proactive regulations for public safety. For example there is need for compliance for geothermal system where online application can be a fast process to get solar PV system (hot water). The online application consist of 2-page simply form for all buildings. This is one of the proof that “proactive” codes work. There is also need for more effective industry contact where the relationship continues beyond regulation. This often can help to the new technologies to be applied rather than traditional methods. It is a long process to be proactive, but there is need for a patience and thorough work from all parties involved in the building process.

Photo by Petra Vladykova