Our Energy Advi­sor is an impor­tant part of the Man­dala team. An impor­tant part of the build­ing process is to under­stand the impact of the car­bon foot­print of your home and what your choices are for energy sav­ings and reduc­tion in con­sump­tion and pol­lu­tion. Below, find an inter­view with Gerry Sawkins, our Energy Advisor.

1) Describe the ser­vice you provide.

I am an Energy Advi­sor, reg­is­tered with Nat­ural Resources Canada (NRCan) and work with res­i­den­tial new home own­ers to pro­vide an assess­ment of the Energy con­sump­tion within their planned new house. Energy con­sump­tion within the house can be divided into three dis­tinct cat­e­gories, the Energy asso­ci­ated with Space Heat­ing, the Energy asso­ci­ated with Domes­tic Water Heat­ing and the Energy asso­ci­ated with the lights and appli­ances within the house.I look at the amount of pro­jected energy to be con­sumed annu­ally in the house, focus­ing on the space heat­ing and the domes­tic water heat­ing, and make rec­om­men­da­tions to the home owner how to lower the total amount of energy used.

Start­ing with the space heat­ing, sev­eral fac­tors directly influ­ence the energy con­sump­tion within a house, the most obvi­ous being the level of insu­la­tion within the build­ing envelop of the house. How­ever, win­dows play a big role in space heat­ing, both the num­ber of win­dows in the house, their phys­i­cal con­struc­tion and finally the ori­en­ta­tion of the win­dows rel­a­tive to the sun.And the final major con­sid­er­a­tion in space heat­ing is the heat­ing sys­tems planned for the house.The selec­tion of the heat­ing sys­tems can have a major impact on the space heat­ing when you com­pare an open fire­place to a newer direct vent wood gasi­fi­ca­tion sys­tems to the heat­ing avail­able through new tech­nolo­gies such as heat pumps.

Domes­tic water heat­ing is not quite a com­plex as the space heat­ing but is more com­pli­cated than sim­ply heat­ing water.Heating the water is only part of the chal­lenge, keep­ing the water hot is also an issue.Water heat­ing is get­ting high tech with both solar sys­tems which is renew­able energy and now heat pumps are being added to water tanks to get the energy effi­ciency avail­able through heat pumps. Other options are to raise the water tem­per­a­ture going into the hot water tank so that less energy is required to get it hot. One option is the use of new Drain Water Heat Recov­ery units that pre­heats the water enter­ing the tank by tak­ing energy from the water that is going down the drain.

Energy use by appli­ances and lights is not as well addressed but choices are now com­ing avail­able to help in this area. Energy Star appli­ances indi­cate appli­ances with lower energy con­sump­tion than the norm.The newer Com­pact Flu­o­res­cent Lights or LED lights are pro­vid­ing home own­ers light­ing options to lower energy con­sump­tion.  The use of motion detec­tors and timers help with the light­ing energy consumption.

2) What is your background?

I am an Engi­neer and prior to per­form­ing Energy Assess­ments was work­ing for a Res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion com­pany as a man­ager of new home con­struc­tion. Prior to work­ing for the con­struc­tion com­pany, I was the Gen­eral Con­trac­tor on my own home construction.

3) How did you come to be doing this?

While work­ing for the con­struc­tion com­pany, I became more inter­ested in build­ing Green Homes. While attend­ing a green build­ing course, I became aware of the energy analy­sis field and started to focus on this area of new home construction.

4) What is your per­sonal inter­est in this topic?

While build­ing my own home, I wanted to min­i­mize the cost related to energy con­sump­tion and set an objec­tive to con­struct a house with low monthly energy bills. With this in mind, I focused on max­i­miz­ing pas­sive solar gain and min­i­miz­ing air leaks within the house. Also, I installed a geosource cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem pro­vid­ing radi­ant in-floor heat­ing through out the house.I used Insu­lated con­crete forms for the base­ment below grade walls and low-e dou­ble glazed windows.As a result of my atten­tion to reduc­ing energy costs, I was able to con­struct a house with over 3,000 sq ft of liv­ing space that has an annual total energy cost of under $1,500 per year for space heat­ing, water heat­ing and lights and appliances.

5) How does this pro­gram serve the envi­ron­ment? How does it serve the customer?

An energy assess­ment of a new house pro­vides the owner with an esti­mate of future energy usage and when taken in the con­text of the ini­tial build­ing costs can make deci­sions on where to improve the energy effi­ciency of their house.The owner can focus on their bud­get and make trade-off choices on what improve­ments can be made to the build­ing enve­lope or equip­ment installed together with the asso­ci­ated cost.By reduc­ing the energy usage, the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the house can be reduced and in some cases totally elim­i­nated, as is the case of Net-Zero home. Renew­able energy sources can be eval­u­ated and input into the model to under­stand their impact on the over­all energy consumption.

6) Describe the col­lab­o­ra­tion that you have with Man­dala. What are the ben­e­fits to the client?

My col­lab­o­ra­tion with Man­dala is to look at wall and roof mod­els, win­dow and door sys­tems and foun­da­tion alter­na­tives asso­ci­ated with build­ing design to improve on the energy effi­ciency of Man­dala homes. I look at fram­ing alter­na­tives and insu­la­tion options to pro­vide a more energy effi­cient build­ing enve­lope lead­ing ulti­mately to an effi­cient house.

Cur­rently, I review each house that Man­dala is pro­vid­ing to its clients and model the house for its site loca­tion, whether it is in Canada or the US. I pro­vide a report on the basic con­fig­u­ra­tion as it is expected to be con­structed which shows the esti­mated energy con­sump­tion for a stan­dard fam­ily (2 adults and 2 chil­dren). In addi­tion, the report iden­ti­fies where the major heat loss is to be expected and where improve­ments can con­tinue to be made to the house. In this way, the new owner has infor­ma­tion and can make some deci­sions on how to fur­ther reduce the energy con­sump­tion of the house. I pro­vide a doc­u­ment asso­ci­ated with the house design called an Ener­guide Rat­ing and a plaque asso­ci­ated with the struc­ture (after a Blower test) that rates the house at a par­tic­u­lar num­ber. This can result in energy rebates and will con­tribute to deter­min­ing the resale value of the house.