Building a New House or Buying a New House? Ask the Builder if They Used the “Prescriptive Path” or the “Performance Path” to Build

Today, when it comes to energy efficiency, most national building codes prescribe two paths for compliance. And while it’s true that many project managers will typically follow the “prescriptive path”, there are many project managers who have discovered that the “performance path” is the more cost-effective of the two – and with far better long term outcomes for the building owner.

As the name implies, the “prescriptive path” requires a builder to satisfy a certain standard – like a requirement to install a pre-specified R-Value in an exterior wall or attic cavity. On the other hand, the “performance path” would require an entire building to perform up to a pre-specified standard. As it is, the “prescriptive path” is the simpler of the two, and can be realized by simply accommodating building code requisites. The “performance path” is the more complicated route, and requires a more sophisticated execution – but the resulting savings are far more substantial.

For builders, whether residential or commercial, many building codes and energy codes are just mandatory – every building must comply, and without question. Once mandatory provisions are accommodated, the remaining codes can be satisfied with either “prescriptive” requirements or “performance” requirements. Quite importantly, the “performance path” must demonstrate that annual energy performance is better, or at least equal, to the prescriptive path. Industry statistics do not yet show preference levels, but anecdotally, most builders go with the “prescriptive path”.

Industry statistics aside, the “performance path” has proven itself to many homebuilders, simply by practice. They save thousands and thousands of dollars in building materials and construction costs. But clearly it takes more work and effort up front – from fully assessing potential energy efficiency, to installing high performance products that deliver better return-on-investment.  Moreover, by employing high-tech tools and “energy modeling” software, it’s possible to measure short-term energy performance, and long-term energy savings – it’s well worth the extra effort.

In Canada, the “performance path” (as articulated by Natural Resources Canada) simply requires a building design to consume no more energy than a design based on the “prescriptive path”. Assessments and comparisons are easily modeled with specialized software simulation tools that gauge energy efficiency outcomes before building commences. In this way, energy usage can be measured for heating and cooling systems; lighting and hot water; and even ventilation. Here, the bottom line is to design and build to an equivalent (or better) standard as the “prescriptive path”.

When it comes to residential home construction, a professional approach means doing it right the first time. And for a builder using a “performance path” to ensure superior energy performance, the extra work and effort translates into dollar savings. For energy experts like Great Northern Insulation, there is no other way. As Canada’s largest full-service insulation company, GNI works with builders and architects to ensure the optimum in energy efficiency for every type of building envelope. And when it comes to the “performance path” approach, builders can rely on GNI.