Thursday 27 June 2019

Building Energy-Efficient Homes

It takes a lot of energy to heat the average home, especially during Saskatchewan’s cold winters, but it doesn’t have to. We have the knowledge, techniques, and materials to build energy-efficient homes. All we need is the political will and public interest to improve our building standards.

The Saskatchewan Conservation House in Regina was completed in 1977 and combined superinsulation, airtightness, and a heat recovery system. Over the years, a number of people have pushed the Saskatchewan government to introduce more stringent building standards with little success. That has begun to change. The Government of Saskatchewan introduced energy efficiency standards in January 2019 and recent interest in passive house design has resulted in several energy-efficient residential buildings in Saskatoon (Temperance Street Passive House, Radiance Cohousing).

Michael Nemeth, engineer and Passive House Canada instructor, provided an overview of the current provincial legislation, its strengths and weaknesses, and the direction he believes we should be taking.

Current Saskatchewan Legislation 
The Saskatchewan government has adopted the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2017 (commercial) and Section 9.36 – Energy Efficiency of the National Building Code 2015, Energy Efficiency (residential) for any permits issued after January 1, 2019. Under the new standards, builders are required to measure energy efficiency based on 3 possible paths or models:

The prescriptive path sets specific values that must be met for building materials, insulation, and heating equipment. For example, residential windows and doors must have a maximum U-Value of 1.60 W/m²K .

The trade-off path allows builders to substitute a less energy-efficient feature in one area so long as another feature exceeds requirements. For example, if the windows are of a higher standard, the insulation in the walls can be of a lower standard.

The performance path measures the overall energy efficiency of the building rather than measuring individual features. The efficacy of this model very much depends on what you are using as a reference model. For example, a building with small windows can have a lower energy rating if it’s compared to a building with large windows.

Requiring an energy model raises awareness and Michael hopes this will encourage builders to raise their standards. Overall, however, the standards set a low threshold for energy efficiency and Michael suspects they will remove bad behaviour and poor building practices but fail to increase energy efficiency. Both the prescriptive and trade-off paths focus on individual elements rather than looking at how the building functions as a whole. The performance path measures overall energy efficiency; however, by substituting one feature for another, builders can continue most of their current practices.

BC’s Energy Step Code
In 2017, British Columbia introduced the Energy Step Code as an alternative to the prescriptive approach. The Step Code establishes higher standards than the national code, requiring both an energy model and an airtightness test. It offers a stepped approach to allow municipalities to improve energy efficiency on a gradual basis. The lower steps are fairly easy to meet, while the upper steps are more ambitious, empowering “builders to pursue innovative, creative, cost-effective solutions” and “incorporate leading-edge technologies as they come available.” The province’s goal is to have everyone at passive house or net zero ready standards by 2032.

The stepped approach provides flexibility as municipalities can choose the step which best suits their community’s current capacity, although Michael believes it would be more efficient in the long run for builders to retool immediately to meet the optimum standards.

As of September 2018, 14 local governments referenced the Step Code in a policy, program, or bylaw, and 30 were consulting on the Code. Together with the City of Vancouver, which has set its own energy efficiency targets, the communities represent 61% of BC’s population. The majority are considering and/or implementing the lower steps, particularly for houses and small buildings. Some communities have introduced incentives for voluntary adoption of the Step Code or to encourage builders to achieve higher steps.

Measuring Overall Heating Requirements 
Michael firmly believes that the best approach for ensuring energy-efficient buildings is to set overall space heating targets. Space heating measures the energy required to heat a square metre, taking into consideration the characteristics of the building, the heating system, solar gains, and external weather conditions. (The Canadian average is 150 kilowatt-hours per square metre (kWh/m²). whereas passive house certified homes are at 15 kWh/m².) This comprehensive approach acts as an incentive for increased research and development into more energy-efficient products (e.g. windows) and provides builders with increased flexibility when developing their plans.

A good example is Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in Regina, a 4-storey facility housing emergency shelter for 24 men, soup kitchen, free clothing store, daycare, and 17 low-income residential units. The building will come very close to meeting passive house certification standards with space heating at 22 kilowatt-hours per square metre.

Building an energy-efficient home doesn’t have to cost more money, but it does require rethinking standard models. For example, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission saved $180,000 on mechanical equipment by replacing a more traditional boiler with four furnaces and a very high-efficiency ventilation system. The savings were invested in energy-efficient insulation, windows, and doors with an added bonus of reduced maintenance expenses with furnaces rather than a boiler.

Energy-Efficient Retrofits 
Raising standards for new builds isn’t sufficient. Government needs to introduce incentives to support energy-efficient retrofits of existing buildings. Michael points to PACE, Property Assessed Clean Energy, as a useful financing model. PACE programs provide homeowners with the upfront capital to finance renewable energy or efficiency upgrades to their property. This is already happening in Alberta and some US states. With minor changes to the Cities Act, Saskatchewan municipalities could finance a PACE program through property taxes. Monthly cost of living in these homes would be lower with ongoing energy savings, and the homes would be more attractive with improved thermal comfort and sound attenuation. Homeowners could also recoup the cost of the retrofits when selling their home as the expense would remain embedded in the property taxes.

Energy Monitoring 
Constructing or retrofitting an energy-efficient home is only the first step. Consideration must also be given to how much energy is being consumed within the home by appliances. Energy monitoring, using a system such as Sense, can improve occupant behaviour by increasing awareness of how much energy is consumed by the refrigerator, television, and other devices.

See also: 
Passive House: Comfortable, Energy-Efficient Homes 
Temperance Street Passive House: Saskatoon’s First Passive House

Photo credit: Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, Michael Nemeth

Tuesday 25 June 2019

EcoSask News, June 25, 2019

Great blue heron

“The greatest wealth, the only enduring wealth, the most precious gift given humankind, is the wealth of life that defines our home in the universe.” Douglas H. Chadwick, The Photo Ark

Upcoming Events
Saskatoon’s Beavers, June 26 (radio)
Jan Shadick, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Penny McKinlay, EcoFriendly Sask, discuss the importance of Saskatoon’s beavers on From the Ground Up, Climate Justice Saskatoon’s program on CFCR radio, at 6:30 pm, June 26. You can also catch the program on replay (after 7 pm) on SoundCloud.

BC Energy Step Code, June 26 (webinar) 
A webinar outlining lessons from the BC Energy Step Code will be held at 11:30 am Pacific time, June 26. (The Step Code introduces much higher standards than the current National Energy Code.)

Get Wild, July 3 (Saskatoon) 
Meet and learn about animals that have ended up at Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation from 10:30-11:30 am, July 3, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Zoo Society Story Time, Fridays, July 5-Aug. 9 (Saskatoon) 
Listen to a story and meet an animal up close with a Saskatoon Zoo Society interpreter at the Alice Turner Library on Fridays at 10:30 am from July 5 to Aug. 9.

Burrowing Owls, July 6 (Val Marie) 
Geoff Holroyd and Helen Trefry, retired Environment Canada biologists, will talk about burrowing owls on the Canadian prairie at 7 pm, July 6, in Val Marie.

Sask Parks BioBlitz, July 7-13 (Saskatchewan) 
Using iNaturalist, participate in one of Sask Parks’ 2019 BioBlitzes between July 7 and 13.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
“Agricultural drainage continues unabashed and uncontrolled. It is time to stand up for the environment. This photo was taken in the Yorkton area last week.” Citizens Environmental Alliance - Saskatchewan

The Honey BuZzz Apiary, near Mortlach, SK, is partnering with Ducks Unlimited to help the birds and the honey bees.

Setting aside wilderness areas in remote parts of the country isn’t enough. “For conservation to succeed, Canadians need to find ways to better integrate human spaces with the wilderness that is on the doorstep.”

Canadian subsidies to the fossil fuel sector are almost 7 times greater than the revenue from the pipeline expansion the federal government pledges to invest in clean energy and green technology.

The debate surrounding the Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t over. It’s become a proxy battle, pitting the urgency of the climate crisis against near-term economic concerns.

A radical electoral platform to phase out fossil fuel production in the US provides a blueprint for Canada.

5 questions Canadians should ask when evaluating federal election platforms.

wasp ?

Minnesota will pay homeowners to replace traditional lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover, and wild grasses.

Cities can play an important role in protecting bees and other pollinators. [visual storytelling] 

Philadelphia plans to create a citywide network of up to 25 composting sites, designed to reduce food waste and create organic soil for residents to use for gardens and crops.

Shipping our waste overseas is not a solution. Canada should support the UN ban on exporting waste to developing countries.

You’re recycling plastic all wrong. The only real solution – make and consume less plastic.

Human noise pollution is interfering with bird communication, with implications for survival and population numbers.

Six months after it opened, a wildlife-only overpass is already saving lives – both animals and drivers. And more species than expected are using the overpass – from moose, deer, and raccoons to bobcats, cougars, and marmot.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday 20 June 2019

Volunteer Opportunities

wild roses

We've added a new page to our website outlining volunteer opportunities with nature and environmental organizations in Saskatchewan.

Who did we miss? Email us to suggest additional volunteer opportunities. And be sure to check our list of environmental organizations who are always ready to welcome new members.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

EcoSask News, June 18, 2019

Pink-edged sulphur ?

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Days, June 21/22 (Regina)
City of Regina is holding household hazardous waste days on June 21 and 22.

Green Initiatives, June 22/23 (Gravelbourg)
Gravelbourg Green Vert Initiatives will be at Gravelbourg’s Summer Solstice Festival, June 22-23, with information on recycling, waste reduction, and helping the environment.

Butterfly Count, June 23 (Fort Qu’Appelle) 
The Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society is holding its annual butterfly count on June 23, weather permitting. Contact Keith at 306.334.2862 if you would like to participate.

Ask-Me Cart Volunteers, June 24 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Zoo Society is holding a training session for summer weekend interpreters for their biological artefact carts from 6-8 pm, June 24. Email to register.

Rural Communities & Climate Change, June 25 (webinar) 
The Sustainability Network and the National Farmers Union – Ontario are offering a webinar on how to engage rural communities on climate change at 11 am CST, June 25.

Looking Ahead 
Prairie Wind Art Exhibits, June 27 (Val Marie) 
Meet the artists of Prairie Wind & Silver Sage’s current art exhibitsThe Living Grasslands, photographs by James R. Page, and Small Works from a Big Land with artwork from across the province – from 7:30-9 pm, June 27.

Wilderness First Aid, Sept. 13-15 (Lumsden) 
SaskOutdoors is hosting a wilderness first aid training course Sept. 13-15 at Lumsden.

wasp ?

Saskatoon Nature Society
Golden Eagles 
June 20, 7:30 am – NCC property near Maymont
July 11, 8 am – Birds, Gardens & Art
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
June 26, 7:15-8:30 pm - May Haga Memorial Bird Walk
July 1, 9:15 am-2 pm – Wild Orchids Field Trip
July 6, 8:45 am-? – North American Butterfly Count
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
Saskatoon’s swales are under threat says a recent report by a U of S graduate student. We can have “a functioning native prairie landscape with its biodiversity and wetlands intact, or some more roads and buildings,” but we can’t have both.

Why construct artificial wetlands and stormwater retention ponds if natural wetlands such as Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale are already available?

Canada’s clean energy sector is growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy.

The province of Manitoba has established a $52 million fund to pay farmers for preserving and protecting wetlands on their farms.

The number of plants that have disappeared from the wild is more than twice the number of extinct birds, mammals, and amphibians combined.

Why are highway expansion projects approved with little debate or criticism, while more cost effective and beneficial bikeway and bus service improvements controversial and unfunded?

Victoria, BC, hopes to create life-long transit users by offering free transit to youth under 18.

Canada’s hospitals couldn’t function without single-use plastics.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday 11 June 2019

EcoSask News, June 11, 2019

Chickadee singing

Upcoming Events
Live Animal Show, June 15 (Saskatoon) 
Lisa Wrangler will bring some of her reptiles to Wild Birds Unlimited at 4 pm, June 15.

Repair Café, June 15 (Prince Albert) 
There will be a Repair Café in Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, June 15.

Native Prairie Appreciation Week, June 16-22 (Saskatchewan) 
Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan has organized a variety of activities online and in Moose Jaw, Regina, and Swift Current to celebrate Native Prairie Appreciation Week.

EnviroCollective, June 17 (Regina) 
Regina EnviroCollective is meeting from 7-9 pm, June 17.

Intro to Permaculture, June 19 (Regina) 
Learn about the design principles of permaculture from 7-8:30 pm, June 19, at the Prince of Wales Branch Library.

Bokashi & Vermicomposting, June 19 (Saskatoon) 
Join Saskatoon Compost Coaches for a workshop on bokashi and vermicomposting from 5:30-7 pm, June 19.

Camping Basics for Newcomers, June 20 (Regina) 
Newcomers to Canada are invited to learn the basics of camping from 7-8 pm, June 20, at the George Bothwell Branch Library.

Bat Stewardship & Citizen Science, June 20 (webinar) 
James Page will discuss bat stewardship and citizen science in a noon-hour webinar on June 20.

Coyote Walk, June 21-23 (Regina) 
Artist Jay White will hide from other humans as he walks and camps around Regina from June 21-23. The walk ends prematurely if White is spotted by a human at close range. Members of the public are invited to participate as trackers.

Wildlife Rehab Volunteers, June 22 (Swift Current) 
WRSOS is looking for wildlife rehabilitation volunteers throughout Saskatchewan. They’ll be in Swift Current at 2:30 pm, June 23. Email to save your spot.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Chickadee with caterpillar

In the News
Put your dollars to work preventing illegal uncontrolled agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan.

WUQWATR is looking for lake enthusiasts in central and southern Saskatchewan to participate in a water sampling project. For more information, contact Melissa Bramham at 306-946-6533 or

Endangered Grasslands Alliance, a new Saskatoon-based group, wants to save native grasslands - starting with Saskatoon's Northeast Swale.

Professor Cherie Westbrook is compiling information about Saskatoon’s beavers. Let her know, with GPS coordinates and photograph if possible, if you spot a beaver or a new lodge along the river.

100 all-candidate debates on the environment are being planned across Canada on October 7.

“A one-way flight from Ottawa to Toronto generates roughly 4,718 kg of carbon dioxide, which is about as much pollution as a car emits in an entire year.”

Reusable coffee cups and a package-free supermarket are on trial in the UK.

A municipality is sowing 27 wildflower meadows in its parks and open spaces to create a 7-mile bee corridor.

The Climate Change Toolkit for Health Professionals provides educational and advocacy resources.


“The pigeon is not a glamorous bird,” but Jon Day, author of Homing, “comes to admire their resilience, the ‘cocky, parasitic chanciness’ that allows them to thrive cheek-by-jowl with us.” [book review]

A praise song for unloved animals – even the most maligned creatures of backyards and roadsides have a potent purpose in the world.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday 4 June 2019

EcoSask News, June 4, 2019

wild roses

Upcoming Events
Green New Deal Town Hall, June 5 (Prince Albert)
Prince Albert Council of Canadians is hosting a Green New Deal Town Hall at 7 pm, June 5.

North Sask River Basin Council AGM, June 5 (Cochin)
The North Saskatchewan River Basin Council is holding its annual general meeting from 9:30 am-2 pm, June 5, in Battlefords Provincial Park. There will be speakers on agricultural water management and stream flow response to anthropogenic change.

Will Carbon Pricing Cause a Recession in SK, June 6 (Regina)
There will be a presentation on the impact of carbon pricing on Saskatchewan’s economy at noon, June 6, in the Multipurpose Hall, CB 139, College Avenue Campus, University of Regina.

School Climate Strike, June 7, 14, 21, 28 (Regina)
School Climate Strikes are ongoing in Regina with events planned on June 7, 14, 21, and 28.

Planting Summer, June 8 (North Battleford)
Kids ages 5-12 are invited to help plant the children’s garden at North Battleford Library starting at 2 pm, June 8.

Snakes in Saskatchewan, June 11 (webinar) 
Christopher Somers will discuss snakes in Saskatchewan in a noon-hour webinar on June 11.

Hug a Tree and Survive, June 13 (Prince Albert)
Prince Albert North Search and Rescue is offering an Adventure Smart program that helps kids lost in the woods at 7 pm, June 13, in Prince Albert.

Looking Ahead 
Sask Summer Star Party, Aug. 28-Sept. 2 (Cypress Hills) 
The annual Saskatchewan summer star party will be held Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

wild roses

In the News
If you see a bullsnake (dead or alive) during your summer travels, especially in southwest Saskatchewan, email the Royal Saskatchewan Museum at to contribute to a current research project.

Recycling successes and failures in Regina and Saskatoon.

It’s taken 8 years, but a settlement in a long-running drainage dispute in east-central Saskatchewan is finally in the works.

First Nations Power Authority has entered into an agreement with SaskPower to add 20 megawatts of solar power to the grid in the next 20 years through 2 projects: a solar farm to be constructed by the George Gordon and Starblanket First Nations near Weyburn and a partnership with Cowessess First Nation.

Alberta and Saskatchewan's ever-rising share of Canada's climate pollution is making it increasingly impossible for Canada to meet its climate obligations.

Whistles and cameras could prevent bats and birds from running into wind turbines.

“The Center for Biological Diversity today launched a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program for killing California beavers: ‘Our federal government needs to stop shooting and trapping native beavers whose ponds are safe havens for other wildlife.’ Last year, in response to a similar litigation threat, Wildlife Services agreed to stop killing beavers, river otter, muskrat and mink in Oregon.”

Waitrose, a major supermarket chain in the UK, is trialling package-free shopping.

10 tips to help you save money and reduce vehicle pollution.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).