Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Tag Archives: International

Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment Final Project

Our energy efficiency reports were passed in yesterday and today were the presentations. The presentations were attended by lots of students, faculty, and community members. Some students from Holland College in PEI made the trip to Halifax to watch as well.

All groups did an excellent job of their projects and presentations. Because of the different nationalities and fields of study among the participants the strategies were quite different. Each group had at least one Irish student, one Dutch student, and one Canadian. I really enjoyed experiencing the different perspectives on things.

Our group did an energy model of a large (3000 square foot) house that was built in 2005. The home was R2000 and had an Energuide rating of 83. In order to develop our report we took the following steps:

  • We collected utility data and normalized it using heating degree days. Linear regression and cumulative sum analysis was used to look for irregularities
  • We developed an energy model of the house using HOT2000. This is free software from Natural Resources Canada that allows you to simulate the energy use in a house and find out where the areas for improvement are.
  • A 3D model was built. The house drawings were supplied in AutoCAD and these were used to create a Google Sketchup model as well as a 3D rendering.
  • An on-site audit was conducted and we collected data about various systems in the house and took inventory of items we felt were inefficient. We also used thermal imaging, sound meters, air quality sensors, and a blower door. We interviewed the home owner at this time to help us understand occupant behaviour.

We were able to come up with several opportunities for energy and efficiency. These were:

  • Install energy efficient light bulbs in all fixtures.
  • Retire the second refrigerator.
  • Install a hot water tank insulating blanket.
  • Use the programmable thermostat to set back heating at night.
  • Install a real time energy monitoring system.
  • Install a solar hot water heating system.
  • Install a drain water heat recovery unit.
We also recommended the homeowner get a rain barrel to harvest rainwater for landscaping and to use mulch to increase water retention in the soil for his garden beds. All of our recommendations for the home would cut the energy consumption down by 42%. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8.18 tons, which is the same as planting 190 trees or taking 1.5 cars off the road. Being a part of this project was an amazing experience for me.
The international perspective was great and project based learning is a great way to learn. My field of study is quite new and I can expect to be working with people from other disciplines mostly, so the experience was priceless.
You can download a copy of our final report with recommendations here.

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EEBE Project Update

We are now 3 days into the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment project and there have been some changes to the work that we will be doing. We will not be auditing Habitat for Humanity homes as we had originally planned. The reason for this is that we were not able to get architectural drawings for those houses, and without drawings we would need to measure which would add hours to the project. Because the timeframe is only 3 weeks we have selected different homes to allow us to focus on learning the skills that are most important.

We were put into teams and each team will conduct an audit. Our team consists of:
Fin MacDonald (Me) – NSCC, Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology
Sarah Mitchell – NSCC, Contruction Management
Arwin Hidding – Hanze University (The Netherlands), Architecture
John Booth –  ITCarlow (Ireland), Construction Building Services

The project based learning approach places us in groups with diverse skills so we can draw off each others talents. Some of us are early in our study and some of us are at the end, so our skills levels vary. There will be lots to be learned during this project.

The house we have chosen is the larger of the two. It has 3 floors including a basement. It also features some complex roof geometry. It will be more challenging to model but we chose it because it comes with 2 years of utility data so we will be able to benchmark the consumption.

Our group is currently working on a HOT2000 model of the home and today was the first day some of my group members have seen this software before. The HOT2000 model will allow us to calculate the energy load of the building as well as determine the feasibility of building upgrades. We are also creating a 3D model of the home in Autodesk Revit. Revit is a similar program to Google Sketchup but with much more advanced features. We will be calculating the Building Energy Performance Index (BEPI) and Building Energy Cost Index (BECI) as soon as we get the past utility data. These indices will allow us to benchmark the building against others in Canada. They will be normalized for building area as well as weather to aid in the comparison.

The on-site audit will take place next week, and I will provide another update after that happens.

EEBE Phase 1 – Habitat for Humanity Home Audits

The first phase of the Energy Efficiency and the Built Environment (EEBE) program with NSCC International will take place in Halifax, NS. I will be based out of the NSCC Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth during that time. We will be joined by students from Hanze University in the Netherlands and IT Carlow in Ireland. The 3 week project will be to perform complete energy audits of 2 habitat for humanity homes in the area. We will be broken into teams and each team will be assigned a house. We will visit the home to perform the physical audit and use tools like thermal imaging guns and a blower door. We will take measurements so that we can create an energy model using HOT2000, which is free software from Natural Resources Canada. The software will allow us to add upgrades and determine how they will affect the energy performance of the building. We will also be checking the houses against the LEED for Homes checklist to see how well they line up with some of the broader green strategies beyond energy efficiency. At the end of the 3 weeks we will prepare a report and presentation of our findings and recommendations.

Outside of the project work we will have some presentations and tours included in the 3 week period. We will tour Thermodynamics Ltd who manufacture solar panels for hot water heating. We will also be touring the Efficiency Nova Scotia demonstration homes built by Denim Homes. The new Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is also on our list.

William Marshall from Equilibrium Engineering will be training us on HOT2000. I’ve been trained already but I am looking forward to refreshing my knowledge. We will also hear presentations from Josh MacLean from Efficiency NS, Allan Read from ITCarlow, and Gualdino Duarte Pais from Hanze University.

This project will be my life for the next 3 weeks. I am fortunate to have instructors at my home campus in Middleton who are willing to meet me half way and allow me the to be away from classes for 3 weeks. I will still be responsible for the material covered during that time but will not have to attend classes.

Our teams will start each day at 8:30 am and work as long as it takes to complete the project. Outside of the project work we aim to be good hosts to our Irish and Dutch guests! We’ll be introducing them to some of what Nova Scotia has to offer culturally, and we will be meeting them at the hostel first thing on Monday to show them the way to school on the first day.