Rewarding greener buildings

Energy-efficient incentive programs in Kimberley, Sparwood and Invermere can inspire other municipalities

The exterior of an energy-efficient home built by Tyee Custom Homes in Kimberley, B.C.

This new residence by Tyee Custom Homes in Kimberley, B.C., won numerous awards for energy efficiency, including a Rockies Award. — Chris Pullen photo/Cranbrook Photo

Three towns in the East Kootenay could be considered innovators or early adopters. Invermere, Kimberley and Sparwood all have incentive programs to encourage builders to construct energy-efficient homes.

Carl Lauren, owner of Tyee Custom Homes and Tyee Log & Timber in Kimberley, spearheaded the effort to implement the program in his community. Lauren is green to the core, as both an owner of two green building companies and an activist—he serves on the board of Built Green Canada.

“My ideology has always been starting from the grassroots and going up from there,” Lauren said. “My idea was to—at the very least—get our city of Kimberley to do something to actively promote building greener.”

Kimberley’s Energy Efficient Building Incentive Program started just over two years ago, on January 1, 2014. It encourages energy efficiency in new construction and renovations to existing buildings by offering rebates of building permit fees.

A certified energy advisor must be hired to test the homes and produce an EnerGuide rating. A variety of programs require EnerGuide ratings, including Built Green Canada, LEED, R2000 and Passivhaus.

In Kimberley, eligible projects will be refunded a percentage of the fees based on the EnerGuide rating of the building post-construction. “A 20 per cent rebate, or EnerGuide rating in the range of 80 to 82, is the most common savings but some new builds have achieved a 40 per cent rebate by reaching an EnerGuide rating in the range of 83 to 85,” said Troy Pollock, manager of planning services for the city.

For Lauren, on average he saves between $1,200 and $2,000 on every single house he builds through the rebates.

The interior of an energy-efficient home built by Tyee Custom Homes in Kimberley, B.C., showing the long view to the fireplace.

Custom-built homes can be beautiful, functional and energy-efficient, as is this one built by Tyee Custom Homes in Kimberley, B.C. — Chris Pullen photo/Cranbrook Photo

Just passing its one-year anniversary, the program is showing results. “To date, 16 per cent of new residential builds have participated in the program and so far only one home in the renovation stream,” said Pollock.

The District of Sparwood adopted a similar program about a year later—on January 19, 2015. For homes that achieve an EnerGuide rating of 80 or better, Sparwood will rebate 50 per cent of the building permit fees. But the town took the program a step further than Kimberley’s by including a 100 per cent rebate of the energy audit fees as well.

Nelson Wight, manager of planning for the district, said that no rebates have been issued to date but he knows of two builders who intend to participate. “One of the builders that we know is likely to get the rebate is a few weeks away from completion,” said Wight; that individual is Jason Szykulski of Tailor Built Solutions.

The District of Invermere might have been the first in the region with its rebate program for energy-efficient new or renovated single-family homes. The program came into effect September 14, 2010. With an Energuide rating of 83 or higher comes a cheque for $5,000. However, Laura Moberg, utilities and property taxes co-ordinator, said the district only gives two such rebates per year on a first-come basis.

Going forward

The City of Kimberley is planning to revise the program to encourage greater participation by adjusting the incentives and the minimum efficiency ratings. “We really want to see greater participation, especially in the renovation stream,” said Pollock.

His advice to other towns is to keep it simple. “(Kimberley’s) program is intentionally simple so it is both easy for builders and building owners to participate as well as easy and cost-efficient for the City to implement,” he said.

Sparwood staff like that its district program emphasizes the positive rather than the negative. “My advice to other local governments would be to not rely solely on the ‘stick’ approaches but employ all the ‘carrot’ approaches you have available,” said Wight.

Are there other municipalities that have adopted such incentive programs? Please email me with your information.

“If we can get more and more communities to follow this simple incentive program, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Lauren said. “Kimberley did it, why can’t you?”

RESOURCES: Contact Built Green Canada for its free Municipality Toolkit.
 

Virginia Rasch

Virginia is a writer and copy editor with Koocanusa Publications. She is an avid outdoor recreationist in all seasons and has lived in the Kootenays for 10 years. With degrees in the natural sciences, she has worked as a tour guide, an environmentalist, a writer, and a copy editor of scientific publications. Virginia now brings her passion for everything green to Kootenay Business. View all of Virginia Rasch’s articles

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