The following is written by freelance journalist Chris Benjamin and submitted to The Laker News by Quest as part of the Powered By Communities communication campaign.
BERWICK: To meet Nova Scotia’s carbon-reduction targets, old buildings must become more efficient. For property owners, retrofitting an older building can seem prohibitively expensive.
Designer Lorrie Rand, builder Nick Rudnicki, and facilitator Emma Norton have a solution from the Dutch. It’s called Energiesprong, meaning Energy Leap.
They’re calling the Nova Scotia version ReCover. It involves prefabricating a new, efficient building cover, adding improved insulation, updated ventilation, cooling and heating, and solar panels, bringing the building to net zero—it produces as much energy as it uses.
The process is complete in days and costs a few hundred thousand dollars. The owner saves $1.5 million in energy costs.
“Initially we’re focusing on low-rise buildings,” Rand says. They offer a convenient shape. A fussier shape, say an old Victorian house, would be a difficult starting point.
The low rise is also ubiquitous. “Over 40,000 households that pre-date 1996.” Buildings built before 1996 use twice the energy.
Rudnicki and Rand had done previous work for the landlord of a low-rise apartment building on Lawrence Street in Halifax. The predictability of the low-rise shape will be important as the ReCover team tries to scale up the project. They are sharing research and lessons as the project progresses, in the hopes that Nova Scotia can scale up quickly enough to address climate change before it’s too late. The cost per building should decrease by half as the process becomes more commonplace.
Rand and Rudnicki plan to complete the Lawrence Street building by the year end. If 40,000 such buildings are ReCovered, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia by 210,000 tonnes annually.
Rudnicki expects their process to create more than 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
ReCover, Rand hopes, is the beginning of a movement to make inefficient buildings a relic of the past.