Lights Out for Excuses on Overuses
3 Nov 2016

Lights Out for Excuses on Overuses

By Corey McCloskey, Customer Response Team Representative

As of November 1st the training wheels were off! The transitional grace period for adherence to Section 9.36 of the Alberta Building Code is finished, and all new permit applications are required to meet the criteria defined within. Stressful times at Cedarglen HQ, right? Please.

Before I spend too much time showcasing our specifications at Cedarglen Homes, it’s probably a good idea to explain a couple of things, such as what this whole energy code thing is all about. Generally, it’s as simple as it sounds: homes and small buildings in Alberta are now subject to far more stringent energy efficiency standards, in keeping with Canada’s commitment globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not like this stuff is brand new, but this is the first time there are defined rules set in place, bringing together a variety of the systems within your home, such as your building envelope, HVAC, and plumbing systems.

It’s also the first time these considerations must be submitted and approved to receive a permit, and you can bet the Safety Codes Officers will be checking when they’re out doing their inspections. The game has changed, and so has the rulebook, so what has to happen to play ball? Primarily, there are two ways to get there, following either a prescriptive or performance path to achieve compliance. Easy for me to say!


The prescriptive path to compliance is one of strictly code adherence; think of it as the martial arts of energy code. Through rigid discipline and adherence to ancient (read: fairly recent) text and parable, mastery of the art is achieved. This is about as black and white as it gets, and is in line with a traditional method of building code compliance. Wax on, wax off, Daniel-san.


On the other hand, a performance-based path allows builders and architects much more flexibility when designing a home. Various parts of our industry have progressed at different rates, as far as energy efficiency is concerned, and not all components of your home are created equally; when using this route, the major consideration is the overall annual energy usage of the home. How does that work, and how do we figure that out, you ask? Great questions!

Using approved software, two identical homes are modelled and held up next to each other. The first is your reference, which is a home modelled entirely based on 9.36 energy code requirements. The second is the proposed home being submitted for approval, based on the specs included in its construction. If the annual energy usage of the proposed model is lower than the reference model, you win!

[caption id="attachment_17173" align="alignnone" width="791"]doc01934320161102111920 A sample Performance Modelling Comparison report, courtesy of Qualistat Building Performance Consultants.[/caption]

If you look closely at the details on this sample report, you’ll see that many components of this home actually fall below the new code requirements for specific elements, however, the overall energy usage of the proposed home is 6.779 Mbtu (that’s 6.779 million British Thermal Units) lower than the reference model. Again, based on this methodology of compliance, this home is good to go.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself “Wait, Corey! This feels like a bit of a sidestep around code, and then you builders are doing a limbo under the bar!” As far as code is concerned, that’s the old way of thinking about playing by the rules; remember, the objective here is to save energy and reduce greenhouse emissions, plain and simple. As far as a limbo under the bar is concerned, you might have a point there, but here’s where I’m going to start showcasing. Have you looked at Cedarglen's specifications recently?


  1. R60 attic insulation provides a higher R-value and minimizes the transfer of heat.
  2. Triple pane insulating glass provides added performance benefits, as it features additional glass and airspace for improved insulation.
  3. R20 Basement exterior wall insulation provides a higher R-value and minimizes the transfer of heat.
  4. Energy Star rated HRV expels stale indoor air while cool fresh air is drawn into the HRV and warmed by the heated aluminum core before being delivered to the rest of the home.
  5. Tankless water heater heats water directly without the use of a storage tank.
  6. 95% high efficiency furnace.
  7. 2lb spray foam to rim joists, 1/2lb spray foam around windows and doors, as well as spray foam to all exterior penetrations.
  8. Wood backing and acoustic seal to potlights and bath fans.
  9. Airtight electrical boxes with gaskets to exterior walls

That looks a lot like kicking over said limbo bar, from where I’m sitting.

Have a great weekend,