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Home renos may cost more

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 21, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Residents planning on starting home renovations this year might have to dish out a bit extra.

The city has required owners of single or two-family buildings to get an energy audit to obtain a building permit for additions, alterations, repairs or upgrades since Jan. 1.

NNSL photo/graphic

Wade Friesen, vice-president of Yk Condominium Corporation No. 8, stands by a new mobile home on Norseman Drive Wednesday. Although new homes are built to an energy-efficient code, the city is now requiring residents to have a home energy audit performed with a building permit. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

The new rule was introduced in 2008 but didn't come into effect until this year.

Brad Heath, communications co-ordinator for Arctic Energy Alliance, said while the organization has offered energy audits to homeowners to help them improve their homes' energy efficiency for several years now, the city is integrating the evaluations into its building permit process and making them mandatory for homeowners wishing to renovate their homes.

Now, if the energy audit scores below an enerGuide rating of 70, the homeowner must upgrade the home's energy efficiency to achieve a minimum 10 per cent improvement, or until efficiency reaches the enerGuide score of 70.

"We're still offering home energy evaluations as we always have ... if you're doing work on your home, (the City) is going to be doing a home energy evaluation as part of their building permit process," said Heath. "We'll tell you how you can save energy, save money, and they do it as part of their building permit process."

The cost of the city evaluation is included in the building permit fee of $30.32 plus $6.67 per $1,000 of construction value.

City councillor Shelagh Montgomery said the intention of the city-mandated home energy evaluations is to reduce the cost for homeowners in the long run.

"Clearly, if your home is more energy-efficient, it costs less to heat it," she said.

Montgomery said the new requirements for building permits are based on discussions between the city and developers and others in the construction community over the past year and a half.

"It's not just any renovation, for example, if you're changing a bathroom within your home, that doesn't require a change in the scoring. It's about changing the envelope of your home," she said.

The home energy evaluations are required for alterations to walls, floors or ceilings, adding insulation to the exterior walls, ceilings or exposed floors and the replacement of existing or modifications to heating or ventilation systems, according to a press release from the Arctic Energy Alliance.

Coun. David Wind said he is not in favour of the rule changes.

"I've never been in favour of the city using its regulatory ability insofar as issuing permits to make it necessary to increase costs to make the improvements that they want us to make," said Wind. "It seems to me that the energy audit should be something that the homeowner would use to make a determination whether or not the improvements that they're thinking about make sense."

Wind said the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes program, which provides financial assistance to encourage homeowners to make smart energy retrofit decisions resulting in energy savings and a cleaner environment, is coming to an end March 31, 2011, after four years.

"The burden is now shifted onto the homeowner," said Wind. "We talk about affordability and stuff like that but I don't think that asking people to pay for an energy audit makes the improvements that people are interested in making in their homes any less expensive," said Wind.

Wade Friesen, vice-president of Yk Condominium Corporation No. 8, said achieving an enerGuide rating of 70, or a 10 per cent improvement is achievable, depending on the type of home.

"With a 1970s trailer, it's pretty easy to do that," said Friesen. "You could do that by replacing your windows or if you're putting siding on your place, put some extra insulation on the outside."

He said it's trickier increasing an energy rating above 70.

"Past 70, you're fighting for every point. Once you're in the 80 vicinity you're just about maxing out everything possible," said Friesen.

New homes all must be built to enerGuide 80 standards; the city's home energy evaluations for renovations are aimed at older homes.

Friesen said he hasn't had much of an opportunity to work with the city and see how strict the new audit system is.

"I would hope that they use their better discretion when dealing with homes that are that close (to the standards)," he added.

Jacqueline Rocher, a realtor with Coldwell Banker, said having an energy-efficient home is extremely important for its resale value and people are starting to realize the importance of saving energy and how that translates to their wallets.

"As time goes by, it's becoming more and more important to people," said Rocher. "People are slowly learning, but to be able to introduce them to enerGuide 80 and the benefits and the differences in bills, there's certainly an incentive to move forward with the purchase of a home which has those standards."

Bill Fandrick, the city's building inspections manager, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

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