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Industry teams up with UBC and Okanagan College on energy efficiency research

Two homes will be built as part of a three-year sustainability research project

A local developer, a homebuilder, the University of British Columbia and Okanagan College are collaborating to see how sustainable building technologies can be used to reduce the energy used in new homes in the Interior.Karin Eger-Blenk Sept 2015

The Wilden Living Lab initiative will see two homes built in Kelowna’s Wilden subdivision on lots made available by the Blenk Development Corporation. One home will be built to current building code standards. The other will incorporate additional sustainable building technologies.

Local builder AuthenTech Homes will identify the additional technologies and undertake construction in cooperation with Okanagan College’s Construction Management Program. Researchers from UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering will then monitor and compare the energy use of both homes over the next three years and report their findings.

The result - real world data that shows prospective homebuilders and homebuyers what can be built in the Okanagan.

Blenk Development Director Karin Eger-Blenk says her company has long had an interest in sustainability. With geothermal heating and cooling already available in Wilden, her company is interested in seeing what else can be added into the mix.

“To make sustainable building practices and increased energy efficiency the norm, we need partners and suppliers who can help make new technologies affordable, even for first-time homebuyers,” says Eger-Blenk. “With the support of the Living Lab, we would like to speed up the progress we’ve already made in our initiative and get closer to a cleaner future.”

In addition to making two building lots available for the project, Eger-Blenk’s company is also providing support for the home planning and building as well as $62,850 to the Living Lab’s research fund.

Working alongside the tradespeople at AuthenTech Homes is a great way to help educate the homebuilders of tomorrow, says Andrew Hay, vice-president of Education at Okanagan College. Students at the college have lent their skills to nearly 50 projects in the Okanagan since 2004.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to apply green building principles, technology, and techniques at the forefront of sustainable construction today,” says Hay. “We are very excited about the opportunities for our students to be engaged in applied research and construction, as they will gain truly useful insights into how to minimize environmental impacts and maximize energy efficiency before and after construction.”

The Living Lab is not a new concept at UBC. The university continually seeks partnerships in its applied research efforts. “One of the unique things about UBCO is the degree to which it has partnered with community and industry stakeholders,” says UBCO’s Vice-President of Research Phil Barker. “We are grateful that companies continue to step forward to partner with us and take advantage of the intellectual power available here. We are keen to build on our community engagement and leverage the research being conducted here.”

There are opportunities for more industry partners to participate in the project as the Living Lab will is looking for sustainable products, materials and services to incorporate in construction. Prospective partners can learn more by attending an industry open house being hosted by the Canadian Homebuilders Association on Thursday, September 10 at 132 Skycourt from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.