Delivery System For Pre-Engineered Manufactured Self-Sustaining (PEMaSS) Housing To Remote Regions

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: physical sciences, renewable energy, engineering, solar energy

Principal Investigator: Thirunavukarasu, Asok (1)
Licence Number: 15774
Organization: Concordia University
Licenced Year(s): 2015
Issued: Nov 03, 2015
Project Team: Dr. Hua Ge (Thesis Supervisor, Concordia University), Dr. Andreas Athienitis (Thesis Supervisor, Concordia University)

Objective(s): The objective of this research is to identify current state of housing in Yellowknife to help benchmark the current energy and future performance of housing in the region.

Project Description: The objective of this research is to identify current state of housing in Yellowknife. This field research should give insights on window-wall ratio, window type, typical R-values, typical construction assemblies, mechanical systems used and delivery process for housing. This will help benchmark the current energy and future performance of housing in the region. As well, the objective of this field research is to validate the energuide housing database.

This research will focus on EnerGuide Housing (EGH) database. EnerGuide rating is the official mark of Canada’s energy efficiency labeling program for lighting fixtures, cars, housing, etc. The EGH database is a management information tool and the central depository for tracking housing across Canada. When certified energy advisors carry out housing energy audits, all related information is uploaded into this central database.

2400 homes across Northwest Territories that are included in the EGH database are currently being analyzed to identify typical housing characteristics including insulation levels, air tightness, window-wall ratio, window types and HVAC systems used.

To validate data from the EGH database, 5 houses are selected for home evaluation and occupant interviews. The houses that are selected are all located in Yellowknife, the selection is based on anomalies such as much higher or lower energy usage per square meter relative to the average of that year.

Occupant interviews includes questions relating to:
1) Comfort levels (if the occupants feel too cold/hot,).
2) Understanding of their buildings and controls: if they are able to adequate control the temperature levels in their house, if they understand the type of mechanical systems in their house.
3) Problems/issues: if there are any moisture problems, indoor air quality problems.
4) Perspective of housing: what are occupants' perceptive of their house, if they like it, what they dislike about it or change. What is their perspective of northern housing, if they like the idea of solar panels? If they are willing to pay 20-30% more to get a net-zero energy house (a house that produces all of its energy needs through renewable sources on site, such as photo-voltaic panels?).

A second portion of this research is to talk to builders/architects to understand trends, typical building assemblies, issues and challenges and gain perspective on energy efficient homes. Questions to builders/architects include:
1) What are the challenges builder faces in Yellowknife building homes? What are the challenges builder face in more remote communities?
2) What type of building assemblies (wall, roof, floor) is built, and what kind of insulations are used?
3) How do builders ensure they get good air tightness in their buildings?
4) Are builders able to find local, skilled-labour? What are they challenges in terms of finding adequate labour?
5) What is builder's perspective on solar panels, heat recovery ventilators, solar thermal systems?

The objective of the field research in Yellowknife is to validate the EGH database, and identify areas of problems and interest in housing, as well as the current state of housing (typical insulation levels, airtightness levels, window-wall ratios). By doing so, the Principal Investigator can optimize housing for northern systems by using a model house (based on current state of housing, insulation levels, airtightness level, HVAC systems used, etc.).

There is an urgent need for sustainable housing in the North. Housing in the Arctic using designs and codes largely imported from southern Canada fails to adapt to the north's unique geographical, climatic, social and economical challenges. Performance protocol for delivery of energy efficient, durable homes are being developed during a Master studies at the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.

The field research in Yellowknife aims to validate a housing database (which has over 2400 houses from across NWT) and to identify current states of housing in Yellowknife through occupant and builder interviews.

Benchmarked values (such as insulation levels, air tightness levels in building, windows used, construction assemblies used) from such interviews can be further optimized through computer simulation for more energy efficient, durable homes. Through the interviews, identified areas of problems and interest help identify which part of the protocol to develop.

This information would be tailored to different regions of NWT, and thus allow communities and organization to see potential ways to improve housing's energy efficiency and durability. The guidelines are to be shared with organizations such as Arctic Energy Alliance, and Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

These organizations, which aim to improve energy efficiency of housing can compare existing strategies, and trends in housing to that of which are presented in the protocol. Finally, performance protocol for northern housing will help bridge existing gaps between standards used in the north and needed.

Research results from the field research will be submitted to Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA), as well as the NWT Housing Corporation.

Performance protocol for energy efficient homes would be submitted to Northwest Territories housing corporations, as well as Nunavut's Housing Corporation. By benchmarking possible performance of housing, NWT Housing Corp, and AEA can see where improvements can be made, and information can be further distributed to other organizations. This research would form a stepping stone towards energy efficient, durable housing for NWT and other northern regions in Canada - because it shows (through modelling) how efficient homes can be right now.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from November 3, 2015 to December 31, 2015.