Financial Barriers and the Pursuit of Net Zero Emissions
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
The Government of Canada is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, an ambitious goal that will require support and action on all fronts, from citizens and businesses to municipal and provincial levels of government.
With residential construction accounting for roughly 18% of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions (when you factor in space and water heating, and electricity for cooling, lighting, and running appliances) it’s clear how impactful a shift in the country’s building methodology would be in the pursuit of these goals.
Knowing these changes are on the horizon, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick (CHBA-NB) created the Registered Energy Efficient Builder Program, a program offering New Brunswick builders the training they need to fulfill the new energy efficient building mandates before they come into effect.
Jason Russon, the owner of Russon Construction Ltd., is one of New Brunswick’s ambitious builders who has already undertaken the CHBA-NB’s energy efficient training and is on his way to achieving Net Zero builder status.
“Over the last six or seven years, we’ve been adding more energy efficient credentials to our skillset. Currently, we are Net Zero trained and are working on a home that we hope will be certified as Net Zero ready once complete,” Jason said.
Jason went on to note that being led by the Government of Canada to move towards Net Zero home building methodology was only part of the reason he pursued energy efficient training.
“Client demand for more energy efficient housing solutions is starting to grow, so we want to have the qualifications to meet those needs. Getting the training now aligns us for the long-term. Plus, it’s better for the environment and better for the homeowner in the long run,” he stated.
Jason has always had his sights set on the future, even when he was just starting as an apprentice 17 years ago.
“My goal was always to go out on my own,” he recalls. “So, 14 years ago when the company I was working for was going out of business, I took it as my sign to act and Russon Construction Ltd. was born.”
At the helm of Russon Construction Ltd., Jason leads his team towards excellence in building while navigating the realities of offering a premium product: shortages in materials and skilled labourers to complete the work, and higher upfront costs to homeowners, the latter proving to be one of the biggest barriers of all.
“Even when you have the qualifications, you need that first client who’s willing to invest in those energy efficient upgrades, because you have to certify that first build to achieve Net Zero certification,” Jason explained.
"And while there’s been a lot of interest among homeowners for energy efficient solutions, they just can’t seem to get past the price tag and see the value of what those solutions mean long-term. People aren’t as eager to put money behind things they can’t see and everything that goes into making a home more energy efficient is, for the most part, hidden in the walls. Those incremental costs? They are associated with advanced construction materials and the skills required to meet more rigorous building standards, not the pretty stuff like granite countertops.”
Jason pointed out that as technology develops and Net Zero building standards become the norm, the switch to more energy efficient solutions will likely become more affordable. But more needs to be done now to offset the costs that prevent homeowners from investing at this pivotal stage, which in turn, prevents builders from acquiring the skills they need to meet future standards.
“It’s easy to sell consumers on the benefits of an energy efficient home – even heat, better air quality, cost savings on your heating bill – but if we can’t get them over that financial hurdle, we can’t fully get there,” he stated. “If we want to be able to meet the government’s net zero emissions goals, we need to make it more accessible for consumers to purchase energy efficient homes (or make renovations) that can help reduce our country’s carbon emissions.”
One way to do this, Jason suggested, would be to get financial institutions on board by looking at lending from a different perspective.
“When you’re building an energy efficient home, you’re cutting down on utility bills substantially. When lenders estimate a person’s monthly utility costs as part of their mortgage application, they aren’t taking those savings into account. They’re looking at a home’s square footage, estimating maybe $350 per month in heating costs when realistically it might be closer to $150… or less! That’s an extra $200 a month that could go towards bumping up a mortgage loan to make buying an energy efficient home more accessible,” Jason remarked.
While funding support is starting to gain traction, it’s mostly being offered through organizations that have a vested interest in the industry and Canada’s net zero emissions goals, such as Natural Resources Canada(NRCan) and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). By getting financial institutions on board, it could convince more people to make the shift towards energy efficient builds – a result that is mutually beneficial for builders and the government.
Increasing the accessibility of energy efficient housing solutions impacts us all, from our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a country, to individual savings on monthly basis for costs associated with the consumption of fossil fuels.
By making funding more accessible and investing in housing solutions that are more energy efficient more affordable now, we allow future-focused builders like Jason to get the training and certifications they need to meet Canada’s upcoming net zero emissions mandates, and we help homeowners save long-term and reduce their environmental footprint for the good of us all. And really, how can you put a price tag on that?
Jason Russon is a Silver-level REEB and the owner of Russon Construction Ltd. located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
He is also a proud member of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick and the winner of their 2020 President’s Award.
For more about Jason and the team at Russon Construction Ltd. visit them on Facebook!