Known as energy efficient structures, the construction of “green” buildings often originates in a laboratory.
Laboratory testing and analysis of building components such as windows, doors, walls, roofs and ceilings can reveal a great deal about how a home or office building will use energy in various climates.
In winter, a home with energy efficient windows retains heat generated from the sun, reducing furnace usage and heating bills.
In the summer, those same windows have limited air leakage and with enhanced thermo-performance, trap more cold air inside, requiring less effort from air conditioners or fans.
It all begins in a laboratory. Not only does the testing of green technology for buildings benefit the environment, it also benefits Canadians’ wallets. While an initial investment is required to upgrade to green building components, the long-term savings that are generated have proven to be worthwhile on numerous fronts.
“The more energy efficient your windows, doors and walls are, the less money in heating and cooling you will spend,” said Rhonda Byrne, Business Development Manager at Intertek, a testing laboratory that performs inspections and certifications of a variety of materials that are used in the construction of green buildings all across Canada.
Intertek has a global network of laboratories; it certifies products to meet British, European and North American codes and standards; and its Environmental Certification Program evaluates the environmental impacts of building products and materials.
Byrne explains that many Canadian businesses and citizens have increased their efforts to ensure green technology is applied to all different kinds of structures. “We are under moral and ethical obligation to remain as environmentally friendly as we possibly can for future generations,” she said. “The days of throw it away and buy a new one should be in the past.”
Intertek test methods are based on the sustainable attributes that a manufacturer selects, such as recycled content, solar reflectance, emissions and energy efficiency. The company provides energy efficiency verification services in order to help clients comply with Canada’s Energy Guide (Natural Resources Canada). The materials tested by Intertek laboratories cover the gamut of products that are used to construct structures that will eventually be labeled as green.
Across Canada, there are numerous laboratories, accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), performing a range of related types of testing and analysis, all of which are contributing to the goal of establishing a more energy efficient country.
CAN-BEST (Canadian Building Envelope Science and Technology) offers testing and evaluation services to Canadian clients in all facets of Building Envelope development. Its laboratory technicians perform extensive tests on materials provided by manufacturers for purposes of installation or inclusion in green buildings.
Elie Alkhoury, President and CEO of CAN-BEST, explains that for a variety of reasons, from energy efficiency to esthetics, many new Canadian homeowners are choosing to replace their windows. Manufacturers of windows are among the CAN-BEST clients who require testing of their products so as to ensure that these products are green-ready and able to address air leakage.
“Air leakage testing is the most directly related test to energy performance,” said Alkhoury.
To market and sell their products to environmentally-conscious builders and homeowners, a manufacturer sends their windows, doors or other glass products to a laboratory where these can be evaluated and certified against specific standards. CAN-BEST uses a specialized chamber in which products are tested for airflow, and where technicians are able to determine if a product can be categorized as “green” and ready for usage.
Windows and doors are manufactured for different levels of airflow, depending on the climate where they plan to be used. Based on airflow, air tightness, and other performance criteria such as solar heat gain and mechanical testing, an Energy Rating (ER) is assigned to each product before it is shipped to the manufacturer.
“We have an energy reading standard that we follow to rate products, specifically windows and glass,” said Alkhoury, adding that adhering to standards and being accredited as competent to do so, allows for consistent results when conducting laboratory testing.
Alkhoury believes accreditation directly contributes to CAN-BEST’s reputation and recognition as an organization with the ability to test the energy efficiency of windows and doors that are being used in the construction of green buildings. “The minute we mention we are accredited…it weighs quite heavily and we find that is a good thing for us,” he says.
Testing and analysis of building construction is a key element of building green. Assurance that testing of materials is being conducted in a competent lab is the right place to start for Canadian builders and homeowners that want to contribute to the growing global movement towards energy efficiency and environmental consciousness.