Around the world

Element - - Healthy Homes -

Coun­tries and cities around the world are tak­ing ac­tion to en­cour­age a more sus­tain­able built en­vi­ron­ment. Ap­proaches in­clude stronger build­ing codes and stan­dards, as well as tax and other in­cen­tives for build­ing de­vel­op­ers and own­ers.

The mar­ket plays a part when im­prove­ments are recog­nised through in­creased prop­erty value. The de­sire to be seen to do the right thing is also a pow­er­ful mo­ti­va­tor.

Vol­un­tary en­vi­ron­men­tal rat­ings sys­tems and guide­lines raise pub­lic aware­ness of sus­tain­able build­ing prac­tices and can lead to more for­mal changes such as the Auck­land Draft Uni­tary Plan.

In North Amer­ica, LEED for Homes is a vol­un­tary rat­ing tool for new sin­gle and small multi-fam­ily homes. It is de­signed to max­imise fresh air in­doors and min­imise ex­po­sure to air­borne tox­ins and pol­lu­tants. On aver­age, LEED-cer­ti­fied homes use 20 to 30 per cent less en­ergy than a home built to code.

LEED for Neigh­bour­hoods of­fers point­ers for sus­tain­able de­sign on a larger scale, tak­ing in walk­a­bil­ity and den­sity of neigh­bor­hoods, ease of ac­cess to pub­lic trans­porta­tion, stores, and civic in­sti­tu­tions, preser­va­tion and im­prove­ment of eco­log­i­cally valu­able land, and neigh­bour­hood-wide en­ergy sources. One of the schemes which has re­ceived some pub­lic­ity is Pas­siv Haus, de­vel­oped in Ger­many in 1996 for new homes. Its goal is re­duc­ing the hous­ing sec­tor’s car­bon emis­sions to a sci­en­tif­i­cally-jus­ti­fied level with strict per­for­mance­based re­quire­ments for air leak­age, heat­ing and cool­ing, and over­all en­ergy use. It typ­i­cally re­duces en­ergy con­sump­tion by 80 per cent com­pared to stan­dard con­struc­tion, mak­ing it eco­nom­i­cal to use re­new­able en­ergy to meet the re­main­ing de­mand. How­ever the sys­tem is de­vel­oped for tem­per­a­tures as low as mi­nus 15, so it has limited ap­pli­ca­tion here.

The United King­dom has the Code for Sus­tain­able Homes for rat­ing and cer­ti­fy­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance of new homes. Like Homes­tar, it looks at en­ergy and CO2 emis­sions, wa­ter, ma­te­ri­als, sur­face wa­ter run-off, health and well-be­ing, pol­lu­tion, man­age­ment and ecol­ogy.

Aus­tralia’s national rat­ing sys­tem NABERS mea­sures sim­i­lar fac­tors, rat­ing the en­ergy and wa­ter use of Aus­tralian homes from 0 to 5 stars.

In Canada, the vol­un­tary En­erGuide Rat­ing Sys­tem for mea­sur­ing the en­ergy per­for­mance of new and ex­ist­ing homes is of­ten used as a re­quire­ment to par­tic­i­pate in in­cen­tive pro­grams geared to­wards the res­i­den­tial sec­tor, such as ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes sub­si­dies.

At a city level, Van­cou­ver has a Home En­ergy Loan Pro­gram to fi­nance en­ergy ef­fi­ciency up­grades which are paid back through the util­ity bill. The loan stays with the house if it is sold. The Bri­tish Columbia govern­ment now wants to make the scheme prov­ince-wide.

An apart­ment com­plex in Van­cou­ver.

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