Nov 29, 2019

A Step Code Case Study

William Bowers, branch manager at our Victoria BC branch, built a house on Vancouver Island that was featured as a case study for the BC Step Code. You can visit here to see the overview of the case studies and here to see the PowerPoint on William's house in particular. We asked him a few questions about his experience. 

First off, congratulations on being featured as a case study for the BC Energy Step Code. How does it feel to have your home selected?

That was not really important to us personally, as we just wanted to build a better home. It's more of a by-product of the connections and knowledge that we have access to in our industry, and the years of accumulated knowledge from spending the last 29 years in the trades.

Why did you choose to build a Step 3 home?

We actually never did decide to build a Step Code house. All we wanted was an energy-efficient house that had a lower monthly operating cost. It wasn’t until we got involved with Russ Barry and Tim Campbell at Interactive Construction that we realized what we were doing was on par with some the most energy-efficient homes they had built.

They introduced us to Reid Cassidy at Adapt Energy Advisers. When the energy modelling started, that influenced a few simple decisions we made like the use of only LED lighting, the elimination of a furnace, and the addition of an HRV (heat-recovery ventilator) unit.

What are the benefits of complying with the Step Code earlier than required Step 3 implementation in 2022?

I can now lean on my own personal experience when assisting our team with working on high-efficiency projects with our customers. Plus, we feel good about what we have accomplished as we’ve built a home that is better for the environment and to a higher standard than required.

Was there a reason you targeted Step 3 in particular?

Once we realized where we were, we actually set Step 4-5 as a goal. We’re done now, and for Step 4-5 we have not completed the final blower door test. The requirements are under 1.0 ACH (air changes per hour) to qualify for step 5; we tested at lock up and achieved 1.167 ACH. I’ve decided not to test further as there’s no benefit to us to do so.

The program still needs work as there is no registry or list or anything that backs up the fact that we are a Step Code house other than the case study, so I guess it has value from that perspective.

How involved in the design and construction were you?

Very! We sketched the house on a Convoy note pad within the first 72 hours of having our offer on the property accepted, and there were very few changes in the overall design. My wife and I have clear goals!

Did you find any unusual challenges in design?

The biggest issues were the interior vapour barrier and how to tie-in the ceiling to the walls. We ended up being very unconventional in our solution here; we used foil-faced ISO, taped the joints, and spray-foamed the perimeter, as thermal bridges were a big no-no on our project!

The heating system was very challenging; our duct work installer fired us as clients when we told him we don't need a furnace! We only need 4 in-wall 1500 watt heaters and an HRV. He was none too happy; I had a good laugh about that one.

What were the challenges involved in construction?

Every project we’re involved in at Convoy has its own unique set of challenges; I don't think ours was any different or any more difficult. We had a great team of trades people that worked with us, and we were fortunate that there was only one trade we hired that we did not have existing relationships with. We engaged with our trades and leaned on them for their knowledge and expertise, and listened to their recommendations which made things go very smooth.

Now that you've been living in the house for a while, is there anything you'd change about it?

Not really; overall, we are very happy with how it turned out.

What advice would you have for someone considering a Step Code-compliant build? How about a retrofit?

First step in any new build or retrofit should be to engage an energy adviser! Discuss your ideas with people who know. You'd be amazed at the things you can learn from the experiences of others, especially your trades people. We all love to talk about climate change. Now is your chance to do something that can have a lasting and meaningful impact!