Setting Excellence as The New Standard
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Climate change is a hot topic, and rightfully so – the impact is very real, and it affects us all. With Canada’s net zero emission goals looming on the horizon (because if we’re being honest, 2030 and 2050 are a lot closer than we think) it’s clear the country needs leaders who are focused on a sustainable future if we’re going to make those goals a reality.
Enter Darren Hill, Vice President and General Manager of Hill Bros. Realty Ltd.,
energy efficiency champion, and Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner. While Darren humbly shies away from any attention given to his award-winning status, he instantly switches gears and becomes a passionate advocate and spokesperson when the topic moves to energy efficiency in the home building sector.
“I realized quite some time ago that there are three players in the housing transaction – the vendor, the purchaser, and the environment.
"When you raise your building standards to a high-performance build by using a certified energy label such as Net Zero or R-2000, you are becoming more harmonized with nature and the environment by reducing your carbon footprint and minimizing or using only what we need to bring greenhouse gases down, it benefits everyone,” said the third-generation construction company owner.
“And if you’re aware of that as a builder, you can take courses, offer energy efficiency labels to your customers like R-2000, ENERGY STAR®, Net Zero Ready or Net Zero, and carve a niche for yourself in the market. At a minimum customers will brag and compare their energy bills akin to a high-performance race car and why not? After all, for 99% of people, a house will be the biggest purchase in their lifetime.”
For those not familiar, energy efficiency labels impact building standards and are designed to help reduce each household’s environmental footprint by preserving natural resources through the building process and materials used. Investing in these certifications means embracing a future where energy efficiency builds are the norm, and while these labels may seem like a new concept, some have been around for decades.
“Canada is, for the most part, a cold climate country,” Darren explained, “so in the 70s when the energy crisis hit, our company started learning about different building processes to make homes more energy efficient.
In 1981, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the Canadian Home Builders’ Association got together and collaborated to create the R-2000 program, a certification program to recognize best-in-class energy efficient homes and builders. The program went on to achieve worldwide recognition, especially as the program evolved and came to influence the Canadian building codes. Then in 2010, for the first time, they added an energy efficiency requirement into the national building code (Section 9.36).
In 2030, things will change again, and Net Zero Ready will become the minimum standard for new builds according to the Government of Canada, so I’m pleased to be building those homes now in preparation for things to come.”
From Darren’s point of view, builders who have energy efficiency certifications have a big advantage. But it doesn’t mean that they need to push those standards on customers as an ‘all or nothing’ approach to home building.
“We’ve been building to R-2000 regulations as our minimum standard for years now, so it was a natural evolution to move towards Net Zero certification. But we did it incrementally, taking the training and increasing our standards a bit at a time versus making the big leap all at once. We still build homes to R-2000 standard, even though we have Net Zero certification under our belt,” he confirmed.
“If you’re already building homes to a high-performance standard, like R-2000, it doesn’t take that much more in terms of labour or incremental costs for supplies to increase a home’s overall energy efficiency – in some cases, additional insulation in the outer walls and attic is enough,” he explained.
He then went on to reveal how in some ways, moving towards those higher standards led to cost and labor savings elsewhere in his business.
“The advanced framing techniques used in Net Zero home building meant I was using fewer studs, less labour, and getting a more effective wall because there are fewer cold joints, achieved by framing 24” OC (on center).”
As a point of reference, energy efficiency in a home comes down to how well you control heat, movement of air and humidity. A home with an air-tight barrier eliminates draughts, produces better air quality (due to the HRV filtration system), and is quieter than a standard home, delivering an overall level of comfort that is truly unmatched.
Currently the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick is offering builders a chance to get energy efficiency training for FREE through their Registered Energy Efficient Builder (REEB) Program.
In addition to providing builders with the necessary skills to secure their efficiency certifications, whether it’s R-2000, ENERGY STAR®, Net Zero Ready, or Net Zero, taking part in the REEB Program signals to customers that these builders adhere to a specific code of conduct: they secure all building codes and permits, they have insurance, they offer written contracts, they’re covered under Workers’ Compensation, and they offer clear, written warranties on their work – huge selling points for savvy shoppers looking to mitigate their risk when engaging a builder or renovator. As a past REEB Program participant, Darren can attest to its value and flexibility.
“There’s also a lot of support throughout the courses and within the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – New Brunswick organization. Start with the basics and work your way up. Trust me, once you start, you’ll see moving up the ranks isn’t as difficult as you once thought,” encouraged Darren.
But his advice didn’t stop at builders.
“For homeowners, I would encourage them to work with a builder who can certify their home at R-2000 standard as a minimum. The cost of energy has become so unpredictable. Having an eye towards the future and at the very least having the infrastructure roughed in so that energy efficient upgrades can be made down the road is a smart decision. Plus, if you eventually list your home for sale, if it has an energy label, it’s going to stick out as a premium home. Appraisers and lenders are starting to get on board and recognize the impact this has on the value of the home.”
Strong advocates and active contributors like Darren Hill will be key in leading the country forward in its emission reduction goals as far as the residential housing industry is concerned. His commitment to excellence in building and passionate environmental stewardship should be an example to us all in the industry, from those just starting in their careers to those like his grandfather who plan on leaving a legacy for others to follow.
Darren Hill is a Gold-level REEB, the Vice President and General Manager of Hill Bros. Realty Ltd., President of West Hills Golf Ltd., and President of Alexalor Inc. all 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 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Certifications: R-2000 | ENERGY STAR® | Net Zero
For more about Darren and the team at Hill Bros. Realty Ltd. visit www.hillbrothers.ca