BC utility program helps apartment owners upgrade buildings for better efficiency

Energy efficiency upgrades in older apartment buildings have the potential to reduce carbon emissions in British Columbia by about 200,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of removing 43,000 gasoline-powered cars from the road, reports Fortis BC.
In 2015, the natural gas utility introduced a rental apartment program aimed at installing energy-saving measures directly into suites and common areas on behalf of the owners at no cost. The program also provides owners with financial support when upgrading the building’s mechanical equipment, including the replacement of ageing inefficient boiler systems and DHW heaters with higher efficiency equivalents. More than 800 buildings or 30,000 units across B.C. have been upgraded.
“Rental apartments are so important in our communities, and our early research showed almost 80 per cent of apartments in B.C. were built more than 35 years ago to lower efficiency standards than exist today,” said Danielle Wensink, Fortis director of conservation and energy management. “Lowering energy use in these buildings is critical.”
The basic upgrades alone reduce domestic hot water energy use by an average of about 12 per cent per year. The water savings as of 2019 have reached the equivalent of filling close to 110 Olympic-sized swimming pools or running a garden hose non-stop for over 20 years, Fortis officials maintain.
To date, the program has saved around $2 million in utility costs and 283,000 gigajoules of natural gas and 274,000 kWh of electricity for the building owners.
FortisBC offers natural gas, propane and thermal energy solutions.

CEC offers gold/blue seal certification programs

MCAC members attend a seminar at the group’s recent annual conference in Nashville.
New training opportunities are available to contractors looking at improving project management skills and earning gold/blue seal certifications through the Construction Education Council (CEC), the education wing of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC). This program is offered in partnership with the University of Waterloo.
There will be a four-day program offered Nov. 29 to Dec. 2., and a 10-day program which will be split into two five-day segments running March 5-9 and March 26-30, 2020.
The gold seal certification program accredits construction management education and the blue seal is also known as the “achievement in business competencies program.”
During the four-day program, the course will explore topics such as the art of facilitative leadership, financial and basic accounting principles for project managers, organizational planning – portfolio management, and principles of lean construction.
A detailed course outline is available at https://mcac.ca/cec/programs/advanced-project-management/. This course will also be offered Feb. 6-9, 2020. This includes a manual, breakfast and lunch each day. Registration cut off is Nov. 15.
CEC will also offer a project management program. Over the 10-day period, participants will cover topics such as project administration, scheduling, managing individual differences, safety –  a management perspective, change orders, construction law, job cost controls, meetings and communication, dispute avoidance and claims, labour relations – due diligence, and project completion.
“The project management course offered by CMCEF and the University of Waterloo was very professional in its approach with very well qualified and experienced professionals,” reported Robert Thain, division manager of projects at Black and McDonald, Toronto. “I have been associated with the contracting business for more than twenty years. This course is a recommended must for those interested in having a professional standard approach to project management.”
In order to receive the course certification, students must attend nine of the 10 days. A final assignment must also be completed during class time.
Seating for both programs is limited to 24 students. For more information, please visit https://mcac.ca/cec/programs/.

Ont. increases spending to attract more skilled trades workers

The skilled trades industries have been plagued with shortages for years. In Ontario, the government has recently announced $20.8 million in spending to attract more people to the trades and boost the skilled workforce.
The Ontario Pre-Apprenticeship training program will increase funding by $2.5 million this year, giving an additional 200 people exposure to good jobs. The program is free to participants and always includes a work placement.
“Ontario’s economy is facing a looming problem: a shortage of workers in the trades,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “We need to find additional ways to let young people and their parents know that a career in the trades is exciting, fulfilling and profitable. We have to erase the stigma and let people know that these are well-paying jobs.”
In total, the government will invest $20.8 million into the program to help introduce over 1,800 people to the skilled trades. In the greater Toronto area, Ontario will fund 28 projects for over 600 people to get training in a variety of trades like automotive service technician, arborist, electrician, hairstylist, carpenter, welder, and a few others.
A new pre-apprenticeship program will be delivered through the Labour Education Centre and Youth  Employment Services (YES). This will provide 36 participants with the skills to become an apprentice in the construction sector.
Pre-apprenticeship training programs are publicly-funding, last up to one year, and often combine classroom training with an eight to 12-week work placement. Retirements in the skilled trades are driving the shortage of skilled workers. In 2016, nearly one in three journeypersons were aged 55 years and over.

Decrease in Sept. building permits due to residential sector

Chart 1: Total value of building permits.
The total value of building permits issued decreased by 6.5 per cent to $8.3 billion in September. Largely due to a decline in the residential sector. Gains were reported in only four provinces, with the largest increase in Alberta and the largest decline was in Quebec.
The value of residential building permits was down 10.7 per cent to $5.1 billion in September. Multi-family dwellings fell to $2.9 billion with declines in eight provinces – while Nova Scotia and Alberta reported the sole increases.
Single-family dwellings didn’t have a good month either and reported a decrease of 8.7 per cent to $2.2 billion nationally. The decline was due to a decrease in Ontario after a strong August.
It was a good month for commercial projects which rose to $2 billion in September. This was largely due to several high-value permits for office buildings in the census metropolitan area of Vancouver. An increase in commercial permits offset declines in the value of industrial and institutional permits.
Chart 2: Value of building permits for the residential and non-residential sectors.
Ontario recorded a quarterly high value of $10.7 billion, largely due to the value of multi-family permits. Municipalities issued $25.7 billion of permits in the third quarter, down 1.2 per cent from the previous quarter.
The value of permits was down in four provinces in the third quarter compared with the second quarter. The largest decrease was in British Columbia following strong gains in the second quarter.
The total value of permits issued in the first three quarters of 2019 was 2.2 per cent higher than the same period in 2018.

B.C. Building Code changes will offer more flexibility to meet efficiency requirements

New revisions to the British Columbia 2018 Building Code has been approved and will take effect on Dec. 12. This includes changes to BC Energy Step Code requirements that will affect residential buildings, buildings outside Climate Zone 4, and public sector buildings. Climate Zone 4 includes the lower mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
In Part 9 of the Building Code, there will now be two options to address building envelopment requirements: revised thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) metrics and a percent-better approach. TEDI measures the amount of annual heating energy needed to maintain a building’s stable interior temperature.
After the first revision, builders working in colder areas had difficulty meeting the TEDI targets for Part 9: Residential Buildings in their designated climate zone. The adjusted scale will now be based on heating degree days (HDD) rather than a single value for an entire climate zone.
This will result in higher TEDI targets for all locations with HDD’s that are higher than the HDD at the lower range of each climate zone.
Currently, the TEDI target is used to demonstrate how builders have met the B.C. Energy Step Code envelope performance requirements. An alternative approach is being considered for the model National Building Code that compares annual space heating requirements for a proposed house to a reference house. It will require a percent better improvement in the efficiency of the building envelope.
In some buildings with unique design features (such as cathedral ceilings or multiple articulations in the roofs or walls), modelling results can show significant improvements to overall energy performance. Yet, the same buildings may not meet the requirements for the current TEDI targets. This change will ensure fairness across a greater range of building designs and provide an alternative way to demonstrate that buildings are meeting energy objectives, say B.C. code officials.
The next step will include additional guidance materials for builders, energy advisors, and building officials. The Building and Safety Standards Branch will work through the Energy Step Code Council.
Public sector buildings
The 2018 B.C. Building Code contains targets for buildings in all climate zones for occupancy groups C (residential), D (business and personal services), and E (mercantile). However, the current targets don’t differentiate among the different climate zones. This means that there is one thermal energy demand intensity (TEUI) and TEDI target that applies to the entire province. Changes will be made that establishes TEUI and TEDI targets based on climate zones to reflect colder climate conditions. TEUI measures the building’s heating needs, primarily influenced by insulation and airtightness.
Public sector buildings are currently not included amongst these occupancy groups. Hospitals, care centres, schools, recreation centres, libraries and colleges have now been introduced in the B.C. Energy Step Code.
This will include requirements for energy modelling that conforms to Part 8 of the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB)  and air leakage testing for these building types. Specific energy intensity targets are not included for these public sector buildings. Further review and stakeholder engagement will be conducted to guide and inform the development of future targets.
The Building and Safety Standards branch is also considering possible amendments to the Energy Step Code targets for houses and small residential buildings. This will focus on Climate Zones 5 and 6 (including Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George). These possible changes are still in development and will not be part of the current public review.

Canada to celebrate National Skilled Trades and Technology

Refrigeration apprentices compete at Skills Ontario in 2016.
Across Canada, the skilled trades will be in the spotlight from Nov. 4-8 as part of National Skilled Trades and Technology Week.
In Ontario, a new skilled trades hub has been created on the government website where people can explore the trades and learn how to become a tradesperson. Employers and current tradespeople can also help with hiring and learn about changes to the skilled trades and apprenticeship system. The new hub can be found at ontario.ca/trades.
About one in five new jobs in Ontario over the next five years are expected to be in trades-related fields. Across the country this week, events will be hosted to raise awareness about career opportunities in the various sectors.
“There’s a problem on our horizon: Ontario is facing a shortage of workers in the skilled trades,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “The solution is clear. We need to let young people and their parents know that a career in the trades is exciting, fulfilling, and lucrative. These are well-paying jobs. We also need to transform our apprenticeship system to make it easier to use.”
During National Skilled Trades and Technology Week, the Ontario government will also be expanding the province’s Specialist High Skills Major program for high school students, supporting over 1,600 people in 2018-19 to prepare for jobs in the skilled trades through Ontario’s pre-apprenticeship training program, reducing journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios to 1:1 default for restricted trades, and continuing to wind down the Ontario College of Trades – eliminating the College’s annual renewal fees for apprentices, and reducing fees for journeypersons by 50 per cent.
In Alberta, the Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, issued a statement on the skilled trades dedicated week. Nicolaides said a trade license has just as much merit, value, and worth as a university degree.
“We know that skilled tradespeople, including journeypersons and Red Seal professionals, are critical to helping re-energize the Alberta Advantage as we continue to tackle our economic reality. Part of our plan includes ensuring that thousands of young Albertans have access to the post-secondary education and hands-on training needed to help meet our future labour market demands in trades and technology careers. With 20,000 skilled tradespeople expected to retire in the next five years, the need is great and the opportunities for young people are endless,” reports Nicolaides.

Johnson Controls acquires magnetic bearing company

Johnson Controls and Synchrony partnered to develop the York YZ magnetic bearing centrifugal chiller.
Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has announced that it will acquire Synchrony, Roanoke, Virginia – an active magnetic bearing (AMB) technology developer. Synchrony was part of the Siemens Gas and Power line.
The acquisition closed on Nov. 1 and will enable Johnson Controls to improve the performance of its centrifugal chiller products, which rely on magnetic bearings to boost energy efficiency, improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs. “This acquisition will allow us to access untapped benefits in performance and efficiency that will competitively position our chiller products for years to come,” said Ian Casper, vice president, product engineering, global chiller products, Johnson Controls.
Casper added that magnetic bearing chillers are the fastest-growing chiller product family for Johnson Controls and that the HVAC/R industry is rapidly adopting AMB technology.
As part of the acquisition, Johnson Controls will obtain all of Synchrony’s products and intellectual property. This includes motors and drives, generators and AMB monitoring software.
Johnson Controls and Synchrony partnered to develop the York YZ magnetic bearing centrifugal chiller. Since its launch, it has won several industry awards, including the 2019 AHR Innovation Award in the cooling category. York is a division of Johnson Controls.

Alberta government ends energy efficiency rebate programs

In the last few months, there has been some confusion about the fate of Energy Efficiency Alberta’s (EEA) programming. Some clarity has arisen and it’s not good news for the association. The new Conservative Alberta government has put an end to Energy Efficiency Alberta rebate and incentive programs effective Oct. 24 and no longer accepting new applications.
Existing commitments will be honoured, and approved applications will continue to be processed for payment. Applications that were not approved by Oct. 24 will not move forward and there will be no waitlist.
Programs closed Oct. 24 include custom energy solutions, custom energy solutions – methane emissions reduction, business energy savings, online rebates, home improvement rebates, home energy plan, and affordable housing energy solutions
EEA programs such as the green loan guarantee program, the efficiency professionals’ network, strategic energy management, and on-site energy manager will continue. Training opportunities are still available.
EEA has generated $850 million in economic growth, $692 million in energy savings and emissions reduction, avoided 5.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and returned $3.20 to Albertans for every $1 invested in energy efficiency, since the start of the program in April of 2017.
The 2018-19 EAA annual report highlights Alberta’s industrial and commercial sectors as the new main focus for the group. “Alberta’s a bright spot for energy efficiency in Canada. The strong uptake on the commercial and industrial program side shows that businesses are looking for low-cost ways to stay competitive and improve their bottom line. Energy efficiency is the cheapest source of electricity,” reported Corey Diamond, executive director of Efficiency Canada.
In 2018, EEA commissioned a technical study titled “Alberta’s Energy Efficiency Potential 2019-2038” to access the potential for energy efficiency as an energy resource in Alberta’s utility and carbon market. “The study revealed that a sustained investment in cost-effective energy efficiency and small-scale renewable energy will deliver, at a minimum, $1 billion per year in gross energy savings, 900 MW of peak electricity demand savings through to 2038 and beyond, and a 4.4 metric tonne reduction in CO2e annually, saving Albertans $125 for every tonne reduced,” said Monica Curtis, CEO of EEA.
Energy Efficiency operates under the Energy Efficiency Alberta Act.

Ontario invests in high school trade programs

Using the right flux is critical. UA tradesmen taught visiting high school students howto join copper at a Skills Ontario event a while back.
Ontario’s Special High Skills Major (SHSM) program is receiving an additional 122 new programs across the province. The province’s minister of education, Stephen Lecce, made the announcement as part of the lead-up to National Skilled Trades and Technology Week.
It is estimated that by 2021, one in five new jobs in Ontario will be in trades-related occupations, with employers already facing a shortage of workers in key sectors.
“We know that a labour market shortage exists today and will rise over time in the high-paying skilled trades,” said Lecce. “My top priority is to ensure students get the skills they need and, by investing in the skilled trades, our government is helping more students gain the competitive edge and job prospects they deserve.”
As part of the program, high school students can now choose among an additional 122 new programs related to 19 different sectors, including construction, agriculture and mining. This is designed to give students have greater choice in selecting a career path that matches their skills and interests while meeting the requirements of a high school diploma.
“Today’s announcement is great news for students, employers and young women who might be considering careers in the skilled trades,” said Jill Dunlop, associate minister of children and women’s issues. “If we’re serious about addressing the skilled labour shortage we must actively recruit, train and mentor young women in the trades. Expanding the SHSM program is an important step forward.”
The government estimates that more than 54,000 students will be enrolled in over 2,100 SHSM programs in more than 700 secondary schools.

Internet usage continues to climb, says Statistics Canada

Smartphones are everywhere these days, and so it the internet. The Canadian Internet Use Survey, released by Statistics Canada Oct. 29, highlights this with 91 per cent of Canadians aged 15 or older using the internet today. In this latest survey, 71 per cent of seniors reported using the internet, a significant increase from the previous survey in 2012 when only 48 per cent reported using the internet.
Overall, 94 per cent of Canadians have home internet access. For those don’t, reasons included:  28 per cent for the cost for the service, 19 per cent for equipment, and eight per cent because of unavailability.
Alberta and British Columbia reported the highest proportion of internet users at 94 per cent, while Newfoundland posted the lowest at 86 per cent. Nearly, 84 per cent of users bought goods or services online in 2018, spending $57.4 billion – up from $18.9 billion in 2012.
Most internet users took steps to protect their privacy in 2018: 61 per cent reported deleting their browser history, 60 per cent blocked junk mail or spam, and 42 per cent changed the privacy settings on accounts or apps to limit their profile or personal information.
More than half of internet users had an internet-connected smart home device in their home, such as a smart television or smart speaker. Other smart devices include thermostats (nine percent), video cameras (nine percent) and smart plugs or lights (five per cent). In addition, 88 percent reported having a smartphone for personal use with many using it to conduct online banking (63 percent) or to purchase (54 per cent) or sell (16 per cent) goods and services in the 12 months prior to the survey.
In the 12 months preceding the survey, 30 per cent of employed users reported that their employer expected them to use the internet to stay connected outside of their regular work hours.