Energy Efficient Homes: What’s more energy efficient and better for the environment, new home vs old home?
The answer to this question may seem obvious. Sure, a new home is more energy efficient when we look at our monthly energy bills but how does it compare to an older home?
The devil is in the details, as goes the saying, so let’s start the discussion looking at those details. It seems clear to most that a Tesla is more environmentally friendly than any fossil fuel car, but it actually depends on how you are measuring that environmental impact.
There’s a great discussion going on about car batteries and how they are made, the mining of precious metals that cars use and the environmental “footprint” of that process. Not to mention the disposal of the battery when it has reached the end of its life. Similarly the first wind turbines and their blades are now being decommissioned and again if they aren’t recycled the argument begs the question, what’s the impact on the planet?
The same discussion is centred around housing.
We have become familiar with the term “carbon Footprint” or “Embodied Carbon”. This approach not only looks at the carbon a home emits during each year of operation, it also looks at the how much carbon was “used” in building the home and further, as in many European models, home much carbon is expended in the decommissioning of a home. This notion coined “Circular Economy” will , no doubt, grow in use as the discussion continues. It looks at not only the genesis of materials in a home but how any building can be sensibly recycled, versus simply being demolished and thrown in the dump. In many European cities this has become a requirement in building codes.
Approaching a build in this manner gives a clearer picture of the resources used and the pollution emitted in the building and life cycle of our homes. “LEED” a program promoting energy efficient building has recognized these factors for some time, according to an article by Emma Hughes, grants higher points for “ rewarding building reuse; life-cycle analysis in the form of whole-building life cycle assessment and environmental product declarations (EPDs); material ingredient reporting and optimization; responsible sourcing of raw materials; and waste reduction and management.”
Our own Chris Magwood, hailing from east of Toronto is the leader of the Endeavour Centre where his group teaches others about true “green building”. Chris starts with a cradle to grave analysis of many of the components that comprise the average house, calculating the carbon embodied and teaching how to minimize it through a rigorous materials selection process. Chris goes to great pains to measure and demonstrate how an “energy efficient” home built from poorly selected materials can be a much greater polluter than a home built to the code but with carefully selected materials.
Are you confused yet? Now let’s turn to our original question. New or Older home?
Applying the same rationale as above onto existing homes and given that the carbon expended in an existing home is something of a SUNK COST, arguably, a thoughtful renovation on an existing home can be much more low carbon and planet friendly, particularly if the alternative is a simple tear down. The rub comes when we dream about those “love to have ” features that aren’t practical in a renovation and those “must haves” for a growing family, the waters become muddied.
We all know the choices we make for our families’ future home are driven by many factors and the answers may not be arrived at by solving a simple carbon equation As I bring it closer to home, I enjoy being part of the Chatsworth team, where we love to help our customers sort through the priorities and understand the options in their new build and decide on the path forward for themselves and their family. In discussing some of the ideas in this short blog its reassuring to know that the “push” is in the right direction and the problems we face will be solved as we all wrestle with the choices that are right for us.
Book a meeting with us to discuss your vision; wherever you are in your home building journey. Anytime is the right time to start talking to us, but earlier is often better as we will help guide you through the whole process.