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For Brendon Gray, the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program at Okanagan College has sparked a new career with super-charged demand.
Brendon was a journeyman electrician who worked seven years for a local company, making his way from the construction site into the office as a project coordinator. With a background in trades, he realized he understood the projects he coordinated but needed more management fundamentals at his fingertips.
As an Okanagan College alumnus, he checked out what OC had to offer and discovered the Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) Diploma program.
“It paired what I wanted to do professionally with the sustainability and green building principles that really spoke to me,” Gray said. “I knew there was going to be a big shift in the industry to focus more on sustainable practices, and I wanted to get a grasp on the new technologies on the market.”
He discovered a class of students with a wide range of backgrounds, from those who had never set foot on a construction site before to leaders in the trades industry.
“There’s some pretty heavy material and a lot of content to go through, but as a result, there’s so many different avenues that people can take after the program,” Gray said.
The full-time program has a blended delivery format, which allowed him to continue working part-time at his past employer.
“After my first year, they brought in a guest speaker who is an energy advisor in the Okanagan. He gave us a tutorial of what he does for builders, and gave us a rundown on the changes coming up for the Building Code, and how there would be a demand for energy advisors. I could see myself filling that demand,” he said.
Gray was able to be mentored that summer by an energy advisor, which enabled him to become a Certified Energy Advisor. Coupled with his Diploma in Sustainable Construction Management Technology and trades training, he is now primed to meet the needs of the building and development industry.
And those needs are about to change drastically.
The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial standard designed to help municipalities and industries step up the performance of their buildings incrementally over time, to meet the net-zero energy level that will be required by 2032. For example, new homes will have to be 20-per-cent more energy efficient by 2022, and 40-per-cent more energy efficient by 2027.
To achieve those targets, the Energy Step Code shifts building efficiency requirements away from the prescriptive approach that focused on the individual elements of the home (insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, etc.). Instead, the new Step Code focuses on a performance-based approach, ensuring the home works as an overall system.
That’s where Certified Energy Advisors come in. Using computerized energy modeling software, advisors evaluate the building to identify things like solar heat gains, passive cooling, insulation and mechanical systems, and how efficient the building’s envelope should be. Then the model is tested with an on-site assessment: a blower door fan is installed in the exterior door and the house is depressurized enough to imitate 33 km/h winds going through the house. The air is measured to see if the pressure is maintained, indicating good building performance, and what the sources of loss might be.
Sustainable Construction Management Technology professor Brian Rippy said that, as part of Energy Step Code compliance, municipalities like Kelowna, Penticton and Lake Country are going to require assessments written by Certified Energy Advisors as early as Dec. 1.
“Building requirements are changing significantly in the years to come with respect to energy efficiency and more. Industry and employers need people with diverse skills and knowledge in order to guide sustainable development in the near future, and the SCMT program is meeting that need,” Rippy explains. “Graduates like Brendon will be playing a leading role in the construction industry in Canada and abroad.”
Gray has started his own business delivering energy efficiency consulting services that specialize in B.C.’s Energy Step Code for part 9 buildings, EnerGuide evaluations, home energy audits, energy modelling and blower door air tightness testing.
Starting a business in a brand new field has its rewards and challenges, Gray explained. Awareness of the changes coming to the BC Building Code has been the biggest hurdle to overcome so far.
“You’re dealing with builders and homeowners who aren’t clear on the changes and what they mean for their projects. Come December, there’s going to be a big learning curve,” he said, adding that smart business owners are looking to the changes as an opportunity.
“I try to tell people it’s about transparency: if you buy a vehicle, you want to know what the gas mileage is like, which model is more energy efficient. But when people look at the biggest investment in their life, a house, there’s no clear rating system that has been in place to inform them how energy efficient it is. For builders, these energy assessments can become a great marketing tool for them to showcase just how energy efficient their homes are to buyers.”
For information on the SCMT program, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/scmt. Check out Brendon Gray’s website at www.egnitesustainability.ca or the provincial Energy Step Code website at www.energystepcode.ca.