Energy Efficient Trends in Residential Construction
By Nachmi Artzy
We asked builders and renovators how important energy efficiency is to their clients, the people who buy the final product, and how they feel about the process. Are energy efficient homes and renovation easier to sell?
Does the process result in more profits? Where do they get the information they need? The responses clearly show that energy efficiency is on everyone's mind. After all, it means saving money on a continuous basis, year after year.
Overall, 36% of respondents said that energy efficiency is very important to their clients, 44% said it's important and 19% said it's somewhat important. Only 1% said it's of little importance. More renovators than builders said it is very important, a reversal from last year's results.
Those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan gave it the highest importance, by a large increase compared to last year, and in Alberta, overall, the number who said it's important was up. Ontario reported a decline compared to last year, with 26% saying it's only somewhat or of no importance.
The main products and areas that consumers demand for increased energy efficiency are upgraded siding and roofing materials, as indicated by over half the responding companies. This was followed by structural (48%), interiors (38%), electrical (33%), lighting (27%), and kitchens and baths (24%).
Is it easier to sell energy efficient homes?
It sure is, according to those responding to the survey. In particular, we saw a great move by renovators, 68% of whom said it is easier to sell energy efficiency, compared to only 42% who said so last year. Among builders, 41% said yes, almost the same as the 40% who said so last year.
We saw the highest increase of those saying yes in Alberta, at 67%, up from only 24% last year. In Atlantic Canada, 80% said yes, up from 67%; in Quebec, 67% said yes compared to 44% last year; and in Ontario, only 44% said yes, slightly lower than last year, and 47% said it makes no difference. In British Columbia 33% said yes, the same as last year, and 67% said it made no difference.
Another direct benefit of a comprehensive energy efficiency effort is the ability to downsize the heating system. Compared to last year (responses in parentheses), 57% of renovators said they downsized heating systems (53%) and 48% of builders said they did (44%). The highest results came from Manitoba/Saskatchewan at 100% (50%), followed by the Atlantic at 82% (50%), Quebec at 71% (82%), and Alberta at 59% (28%). Ontario, at 41% (45%), and British Columbia, at 37% (57%).
The bottom line: increased profits
Only 35% of builders and 40% of renovators said energy efficiency increased their profits. For builders, of those saying yes, 65% managed to get about 10% higher profits, and 29% said they gained from 10 to 25%. For renovators, of those saying yes, 42% said they increased profits by 10%, and 53% managed to get 10 to 25% more profits for their efforts. The message here is not just clear but offers a real incentive to build energy efficient. Manitoba/Saskatchewan had the highest believers in increased energy efficiency efforts, with 100% saying it helped their bottom line, 67% saying profits were up by 10% and 33% saying they were up by 10 to 25%. In Quebec, 50% said it helped profits, with half stating profits were up 10% and the other half saying they were up by 10 to 25%. Alberta reported similar results with 47% saying yes, 86% of whom said energy efficiency raised their profits by 10%. In the Atlantic, only 36% said yes, but 75% of those said profits were up by 10 to 25% and 25% said they were up by 25 to 50% - the highest results. Similar results came from Ontario, where only 28% believe that energy efficiency efforts result in higher profits but, of these 43% said profits were up 10%, 50% said they were up 10 to 25%, and 7% said profits increased 25 to 50%.
Where do you get the most useful information?
When it comes to energy efficiency, overall response was that trade magazines, at 47%, manufacturers' literature, at 45%, and the Internet, at 43%, are the best sources for information. Overall, 38% pointed to industry associations, 24% to trade shows and only 22% to Government information, a dramatic drop from 35% last year.
Though the results for associations remained steady from last year, responses shifted toward more builders and fewer renovators. At the same time, trade magazines saw increased response from renovators (55%, up from 34% last year) but little change from builders. Trade show were up to 24% from 20% last year, and the Internet got a higher response than last year, especially from renovators, 59% of whom said they use it, compared to only 27% of builders, down from 38% last year.
Renovators rely much more on information and 59% of them said that the best sources are the Internet, 55% said magazines, and 51% said manufacturers' literature. For builders, 48% rely on their industry associations and 38% on manufacturers' information and trade magazines. In Quebec, 75% rely on the internet and 63% on trade magazines. Quebec respondents also indicated the highest reliance on Government information, at 50%. In Ontario, 50% said trade magazines, followed by associations and manufacturers' information at 40%. In Atlantic Canada, 64% rely on manufacturers and the Internet, followed by associations at 45%. The highest association reliance for information came from Manitoba/Saskatchewan at 75%; manufacturers' information ranked second there. Similarly, in Alberta, associations were ranked first, at 47%, followed by the Internet, at 41%. In British Columbia, 52% pointed to magazines, 48% to the Internet and 43% to manufacturers.
On February 22, we conducted an e-mail readers' survey. As of March 3, we received responses from 115 readers. Please take note that this survey, by its nature, reaches the more "sophisticated" in the industry and lacks input from very small operators.
For the survey analysis, we used 103 replies, 52 from builders as one group, and 34 from renovators and 17 from contractors as another group.
Response by province was as follow: British Columbia - 20%, Alberta - 16%, Saskatchewan - 3%, Manitoba - 1%, Ontario - 41%, Quebec - 8%, Nova Scotia - 6%, New Brunswick - 4%, Newfoundland -1%.
Of the builders responding, 42% have been in business for over 20 years and 64% for over 10 years. Among renovators/contractors, 41% have been in business for over 20 years and 65% for over 10 years.
We offered respondents a free listing on the Home BUILDER Web site for six months and a chance to win a Telescopic Ladder from Metaltech-Omega Inc.
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