Japan’s Hry-ji Buddhist temple has stood for more than 14 centuries, placing it among the world’s oldest wooden buildings.
When Yukoners build wood buildings, sometimes they don’t last longer than 14 years.
Built notoriously leaky, Yukon homes can quickly become moisture ridden mould cultures – rendering them structurally unsound health hazards within decades.
“Mould is the first process in the destruction of a house,” said Juergen Korn, research and development project manager for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
No more, say new Whitehorse building codes.
All new Whitehorse homes will now have to submit to air-tightness tests to ensure “tight building envelopes.”
“You can put in lots of insulation, but if you build it leaky, you lose control of the energy,” said Korn.
A leaky building envelope also means that warm moist air is allowed to drift into cracks and crevices, where it cools off and turns into water.
When summer comes, the house’s waterlogged walls and ceilings become time bombs for mould growth.
“Over 50 per cent of houses in the country have moisture problems,” said Korn.
“I would suggest that, in the North, it’s higher,” he said.
Every year, Yukon Housing spends “millions” fixing the territory’s moisture damaged homes.
Starting in July, higher insulation standards will also govern construction of new Whitehorse homes – bringing all home construction up to “green” standards.
Walls, ceilings, floors and even crawlspaces will be held to a higher insulation standard.
“The basement accounts for 20 to 30 per cent of heat loss, but it’s a place where we insulate the least,” said Korn.
Green standards mean a more expensive home – but less heating oil means immediate savings.
“Right from day one, you’re saving money,” said Korn.
“The cost of the additional mortgage is less than the energy savings that you achieve,” he said.
Higher housing costs imposed by green standards may still be prohibitive for lower-income buyers, said one contractor at a public meeting with city officials.
The territory can’t afford to keep putting people in inefficient homes vulnerable to the price of oil, said Allyn Lyon, director of community and industry partnering for Yukon Housing.
“People are beginning to lose their houses because they can’t afford to make the mortgage payment and pay for the heating,” said Lyon.
Already, he’s seen cash-strapped homeowners forced to run up credit-card debt just to cover their heating bills.
“We don’t do anybody a favour by putting people in a house that they can’t afford to live in,” said Lyon.
Contractors have favoured the new regulations almost unanimously.
The standards “level the playing field,” for contractors specialized in energy efficient construction.
“‘The contractor down the block can build the same model as I build – and build it poorly – and charge $5,000 less, and the average consumer will buy that instead of mine, which is better,’” said Lyon, echoing the comments of efficiency-conscious contractors.
Super Green standards – which offer twice the degree of insulation than green standards – are currently in use by Yukon Housing Corporation, but have yet to become mandatory under local buildings codes.
Mandatory Super Green standards mandatory would save Yukon homebuyers even more money than green standards, but it’s going to take a bit longer for people to “get their head around it,” said Korn.
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