For local architect Florian Maurer, energy efficiency isn’t only a way to save money on power bills — it’s an ethical responsibility.
Maurer said too many people are simply focused on getting bang for their buck without considering the environmental implications of their actions
“Everybody is talking payback these days, as if this was the only consideration by which to make our decisions,” he said. “Where do moral imperatives come in? Have they all fallen by the wayside when we voted Stephen Harper in? It’s just ridiculous.”
“I hear the payback to be a hired killer is very quick, still we don’t go around doing it,” he added. “It is a moral, it’s an ethical imperative for us as architects to be seen as not leaving a stone unturned to get off fossil fuels.”
Maurer installed solar panels on his roof to generate electricity and a geothermal heating system to heat his house. The heating system uses the Earth’s warmth underground to heat water, which is then circulated through the house, bypassing most of his need for fossil fuels.
Maurer, an architect with local firm Allen and Maurer Architects, built his new home to be as efficient as possible, trying to reach net-zero status. Being a net-zero home means the house is essentially off the grid, being independent of gas lines and outside power sources. Maurer’s home, while not quite net-zero, received a ranking of 91 out of 100, a rating which Gilles Lesage, an energy advisor with Energywise Solutions, said is the highest ranking a renovated home can hope to receive.
Maurer is still set to receive a sizable chunk of money through the government’s LiveSmart program, which provides cash incentives to people renovating their homes to make them more environmentally sound.
The maximum amount of money the provincial government pays out is $7,000, said Dean Neveu, owner and operations manager of Energywise Solutions. Homeowners who renovated in the past could have seen more incentives, however federal programs have been cut, said Neveu.
Even the current LiveSmart program is set to expire next March, and while there are works to develop a new program, whether it will be implemented is anybody’s guess.
“The thing about this program and, even using the government’s own numbers, is these programs stimulate the economy in that they create jobs, because people are renovating their homes and even using the government’s own numbers, for what they pay out in these incentives, they get a dollar back,” said Neveu.
“They’re essentially doubling the money for themselves, but yet they seem to just get cut. I don’t have an answer as to why, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
The government aren’t the only ones who could be sending cheques to those who highly efficient homes. Should the houses generate more electricity than it uses, the power company sends cheques, not bills, for the power added to the grid through a net-monitoring program, which measures how much electricity is taken from, or in this case added to, the grid.
In some provinces such as Ontario, the electricity is paid back at a rate much higher than what consumers buy the power for, said Devin Krenz, Okanagan regional engineer with FortisBC, due to Ontario’s reliance on energy sources such as nuclear power.
However, in B.C., where much of the power generation is hydroelectric and relatively clean, these incentives wouldn’t make sense.
Despite the environmental benefits a net-zero home has, Maurer said people would usually prefer to spend the money on a few more square feet in their home instead of making it environmentally friendly, a decision he said people need to think about.
Maurer said between the cost of the system on his roof and the geothermal heating, people could only afford an additional 400 sq. feet in their home.
“I think it’s important to stretch the ethical aspect,” he said. “We must touch the payback, but it’s important to make these decisions. So do I build 2,000 sq. feet and be as wasteful as ever, or do I build 1,600 and become a citizen of the future? These are moral decisions that we all must make.”