Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Tag Archives: Energy

My NSCC Experience

Going back to school was a tough decision. I wasn’t happy in my old career and knew I needed to get out. I looked around at the different college programs that were available. I needed something quick. I already had a 4 year business degree but I needed a skill, otherwise I would be stuck in an office forever. I found the energy sustainability engineering technology program and went for it.

Fast forward 2 years and here I am all finished. I can honestly say that the Nova Scotia Community College taught me just as much in two years as I learned in four years of university. The most important lessons I learned were lessons about myself, and what I was capable of. NSCC strives to build students confidence. This is in stark contrast with universities who force you to compete with each other for ranking, and work hard to weed out the unworthy.

As we grow older we learn in different ways. NSCC uses a completely hands on approach to learning. “Learning by doing.” Granted, there were some theory based courses I had to take but everything was applied to real world projects before the end of the program.  We had a fully functional, state of the art residential building on campus for us to test, monitor, and learn from. One of my final exams was to troubleshoot the building automation system, and my instructor even had his wife come in on exam day to play the role of the angry customer.

My classmates were awesome. We learned just as much from each other as we did from the instructors. In an academic environment without ranking and competition students are much more willing to help each other succeed. As we split up to take on our new careers, I will miss everyone. I hope to get the opportunity to work with some of them again in the future in the working world.

NSCC also has a great international department, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to take part in an international exchange program with students from Ireland and the Netherlands. Learning about energy efficiency in different countries teaches you things that you could never learn at home.

I’m tremendously satisfied with my experience at NSCC, and after graduating with honors I’m tremendously proud as well. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

EEBE Walkthrough Audit

Today our groups performed our walkthrough audits for the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment project. Our house that we audited was only a couple years old and was quite energy efficient already. We were armed with some pretty sophisticated tools and a great set of checklists that we prepared.

Dan Boyd from the Nova Scotia Homebuilders Association was on hand to perform the blower door test for us. The home we audited previously tested at 1.4 air changes per hour (ACH) but we won’t know how it faired out today until we get the data entered into HOT2000.

We tested the envelope of the building with the thermal imaging gun to look for thermal bridges. We found lots at the studs in the walls and the ceiling, as well as all along the headers and rim joists. Thermal bridges are pathways where heat escapes and are common in standard construction. Modern construction methods are working to eliminate them all together but not all builders are using them right now. We didn’t find any missing insulation or sagging around the windows.

We used an air quality meter to measure temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels on each floor. This will help us determine how effective the ventilation system is. The home has a heat recovery ventilator to reclaim the heat during the ventilation process.

The lighting was quite different throughout the house. We found compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen, as well as incandescent bulbs depending on what fixture we were looking at. We will recommend that the incandescent bulbs be replaced with CFLs.

South is located to the rear of the home and there is an excellent solar resource there. We will be creating a model for a solar system to determine the payback before we make that recommendation. I expect it will be feasible because of the location and the number of occupants (the more people the more hot water used). We will also look into using a drain water heat recovery system to reclaim heat from the drain water.

Water efficiency on the inside of the house was given attention when the home was designed, but the exterior could have some improvements. There are a lot of plants outside so a rain barrel to capture rainwater for watering would reduce potable water usage. Mulch should also be added around the shrubs to reduce evaporation from the soil and hopefully reduce the need for additional watering.

The heating system is about as good as it can get. The owner has an air source heat pump with an electric furnace for a backup. Since the subdivision was blasted out of the side of a rock mountain a ground source heat pump would be too much of an expense to be worth it.

Tomorrow we will start to sift through all the data we collected and come up with some more ideas for low cost or no cost recommendations for the home owner.

Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment

I recently learned that I have been selected to take part in a international exchange program through NSCC International. The program is called “Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment.” It is a joint venture between the Nova Scotia Community College, Holland College in PEI, Institute of Technology Carlow in Carlow Ireland, and Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, The Netherlands. This project based learning venture will feature students in Architecture, Civil Engineering, Construction Management, Electrical Engineering, Energy Sustainability, and Mechanical Engineering. It will be a great chance for me to get some experience working with people in other disciplines.

The first stage will be a three week project in Dartmouth, NS. Each of the four schools will work together with local community partners, industry and relevant agencies to solve energy efficiency challenges related to constructing and retro-fitting homes. A special emphasis will be on low income housing and efficiency awareness and education education for the owners and tenants.

In late February the team will travel to Carlow, Ireland to undertake a second project. The details of this project will be worked out in the near future. Upon our return from Carlow we will prepare a final report as well as a presentation for the Technology Showcase 2012.

This project will allow me to gain international experience and an international perspective on energy efficiency. In densely populated areas like Europe resources are much scarcer and energy efficiency is a much more urgent priority. For this reason they are further ahead in their construction and conservation methods. I’m excited for what I can learn from them.