New Construction Program helps businesses build green


BC Hydro program offers incentives for business to 'go beyond the building code'

The decision to build a new facility is possibly one of the most challenging investment decisions a business or organization can face. Not only is it a high visibility, high capital expenditure, but it also sets in place decisions that will affect the enterprise for decades to come.

That's why BC Hydro's New Construction Program (NCP) works with companies and institutions to make it easier to go green when building or retrofitting a facility.

"Our purpose is to enable architects, designers and engineeers to go beyond building code, to give their clients the best design possible," says BC Hydro's Luis Damy.

But going beyond the building code to increase energy savings can be difficult. Clients may want to be energy efficient, but worry about incremental costs and wonder whether sexy new innovations — such as fast-acting radiant heating and cooling or variable refrigerant flow systems — will really pay for themselves over the long term.

"What they need is proof," says Damy. "That's why we fund up to 100% of an energy modeling study for larger buildings early in the design process."

Funding for energy modeling studies, capital costs

The New Construction Program offers three options for commercial, institutional and multi-unit residential developments.

For larger projects with the potential for at least 50,000 kWh in electricity savings, the Whole Building Design option will fund 50% of an energy modeling study done by an approved consultant, with another 50% funded if the building includes at least half of the energy-saving measures identified in the study. Such studies may cost anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000, depending on the size and complexity of the building.

Additional support is available through capital incentives. The better the electricity savings achieved compared to conventional building design, the higher the incentive BC Hydro will provide.

"This gives building designers many more options to choose from," says Damy. "Measures they may have avoided because of cost, they can now consider. And that means they can give their clients an even better building, at close to the same cost as a less energy-efficient one, with the added benefit of long-term operational savings from lower energy bills."

Engineer and energy modeler Chris Flood of Vancouver's Fenix Energy is a fan of NCP.

"Energy modeling allows us to investigate building design configurations such as a geothermal installation or envelope improvements, at concept design, design development and even retrofit stage," he says. "With building design becoming more complex all the time, modeling lets us explore ideas and actually see which ones will work and which we should eliminate. It's essentially value engineering at the very start of a project, rather than at the end.

"And with BC Hydro footing the bill for the study, and providing good money for installing efficient equipment, there's no reason for our clients not to want this."

System design, lighting design options

System Design is intended for larger projects that offer the potential for at least 50,000 kWh in electricity savings, but are too far along in their design process to qualify for the Whole Building option. It provides incentives for design teams to investigate and install specific energy-efficient building systems.

Energy-Efficient Lighting Design provides financial incentives and tools to help lighting designers create and install energy-efficient lighting systems that have potential electricity savings of at least 10,000 kWh.

Says Flood, "BC Hydro has a very experienced team of technical engineers on staff. They know what they need and how to direct us so we go through the process very easily. They help the design team move forward. Their whole purpose is to promote and drive energy-efficient designs, and they're really good at it. It's a great service."

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