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Toby Barrett - Re: GREEN ENERGY AND GREEN ECONOMY ACT, 2009

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO - March 2, 2009

Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the 20 minutes to speak to Bill 150. It's got a number of titles. If you take a look at the back of this very large piece of legislation, it's titled the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The long title talks about building a green economy, and that's a bit of a stretch, because 85% of Canada's energy does come from fossil fuel: natural gas, coal and oil. There's a long title, of course, An Act to enact the Green Energy Act, 2009 and to build a green-it's quite a long title; I'm not going to read the rest of that one.

You turn the page in this legislation, and there's a third title. I've never noticed this in legislation before. Under the explanatory note, there's a third title: "The bill enacts the Green Energy Act, 2009"-there's no mention of green economy. That's going to have to be changed in committee, and the sooner we get at that, the better. That's confusing. There is a fourth title that's been bandied about: the green power grab, the green tax grab act, 2009, and before we're finished, this piece of legislation will have a number of other handles.

It goes on to amend, we heard this afternoon, 15 pieces of legislation and counting. I think if you count, there are probably 20 pieces of legislation that will be changed: the Electricity Act, obviously, the Energy Act, the Building Code Act and the Planning Act.

We heard mention, just recently, of President Obama. Clearly, Mr. McGuinty is attempting to hit the ground running, to try and out-Obama President Obama on energy. However, we know that there are some differences. Mr. McGuinty remains unconvinced with respect to President Obama's clarion call for clean coal. Our Canadian government has indicated they continue to work on clean coal and will work on clean coal in conjunction with the US government, which makes sense because North America is known as the Saudi Arabia of coal. I will remind those opposite, you didn't close those plants in 2007. They're still running and they're still dirty.

The proposed Green Energy Act talks about housing. It talks about the building code. It's an act with respect to sunshine, with respect to wind and with respect to what's labelled as an incentive. This incentive is titled " mandatory home energy audits to be done before the house is sold." OREA, the Ontario Real Estate Association, as we know, takes a very dim view of mandatory home energy audits and how they will skew the marketplace to the detriment of seniors, first-time homebuyers and low-income people. I don't see the incentive here. I don't see the carrot. It's obviously more of a stick, but perhaps we will see some money grants down the way.

So we're debating a bill to build a green economy. I do wish to talk a bit about some of my work. A number of years ago, I built my own home with my father and my son, and I built a passive solar home, sheltered from the wind. I'm suggesting, "Do as I do, not as I say." I know the member for Welland made mention of snow on the roof. I think he was referring to his house. We know there's fire down below, but he was referring to snow on the roof.

Before I built my house, I took over my grandfather's farm in 1976, and I lived up there in a small 1830s-style house, 20 by 30; that was the building code of the day, if you wished to receive a land grant. I had a wood stove. That was it. I spent a lot of time looking at snow and where the frost would lie with respect to the topography. I very clearly made note of where the sun rises and sets depending on the season, which way the wind blows and in what direction, depending, again, on summer or winter. I had spent a couple of years teaching environmental science, so I had an interest, pulled up lots of books and launched on essentially my dream to build my own home.

But I learned a lot from that old 1830s house. It was known as the Lampkin house. The Lampkin family took over that land in 1830. It was a military grant before that. My family purchased it 100 years later, in 1930. The house was 20 by 30. The long side, the 30-foot side, faced due south; one door and two very large windows faced south. The narrow end of the house faced into the prevailing west wind, and from maps and from at least one existing tree, I know that the orchard was on the west side. I also assume that was not only to provide apples and pasture for sheep, but also to shield that house from the wind.

A number of years later, I could determine that they built the summer kitchen straight to the north with a root cellar underneath. In the summer that root cellar was very cool; my dog always slept down there. Interestingly enough, I learned in winter-and we had some very cold winters back in the 1970s when I was living up on that hill-my dog also slept in that root cellar because it was sheltered. The summer kitchen had a door to the west and a door to the east. You'd open both doors in the summer and you'd get this beautiful breeze. In our part of the country just north of Lake Erie, our winds are prevailing southwest; in the winter, much stronger, of course, and due west.

Another thing about that property: In a particular chunk there are 50 acres covered in black locust. Those black locust were brought up by the pioneers and planted because they grow very fast and they provide an excellent source of firewood.

All of this was done on that particular property, and I've been living up there, as I say, since 1976. I studied the history. All of that was accomplished not through any mandatory audit, no home energy audit required. It was really a survival thing. You depended on woollen clothing; your only source of heat was wood, using an axe, a saw. When the house was first built, I'm almost positive there was no wood stove. It depended on a fireplace, a very large Count Rumford fireplace that was used when the land was cleared, including much of the stumps would have gone through that fireplace. When I disc up soybean ground in the springtime in our south field, I can see a very, very large black area in the soil. It would be about the size of this chamber. That's where all the logs and trees were piled over perhaps 10 or 15 years to be burned off.

So I had eight or 10 years to study the lay of the land, as I mentioned, to study where the sun comes up, the wind direction, summer and winter. It's on the side of a hill. I could determine where the frost would settle, where the cold areas were, and I also made notice of the snowdrifts. I felt that was very important. Whether this would be accomplished through an energy audit-and I know many of us perhaps think of houses being built on a street in town or in a subdivision, but there are many, many other very complex factors when one is laying out a farm or buildings on a farm or building a house, and the first thing you do, in my view, if you're making any plans at all, is you plant trees: coniferous trees on the windward side, deciduous trees to the south. You do not want very tall coniferous-s pruce, for example-on the south side of your house: You'll be in the shade, and you can feel that.

So I set up a bit of a plan for an energy-efficient house. Again, I was thinking far beyond cracks in the doors and windows and far beyond insulation, although I used two-by-sixes. That was not the building code of the day, but I wanted to get the maximum fibreglass pink in between those studs. I also strapped the exterior with two-by-twos and laid two-inch SM-t his is the closed-cell blue insulation. It was something I could do; I had the time. I wasn't spending my money on anything else at the time. I just had an interest, and there was no mandatory requirement for me to do any of this. I don't expect everybody, first of all, to build their own house or to know how to build a house. Secondly, I don't expect people to put these kinds of resources into energy efficiency.

One of the first decisions my wife and I made: When we dug footings when we excavated, we dug into the side of the hill. As for that old 1830s house-and that 1830s house is still on the property; I don't throw things away-I jacked it up and moved it back 100 yards. We oriented our house lengthways, not so much facing south; we decided to have the long side of our house facing south-southeast. The reason for that: When you live down near Lake Erie, in the wintertime when you want that sun, you get sun until noon, and then because of the lake, it clouds up. So I decided not to face south but to face south-southeast. If someone did an energy audit on my home, I would hope that they would take that factor into recognition because it's not as simple as just orienting your windows south.

Eighty-five per cent of the glass in the house faces south-southeast. We designed the house with only two windows that face north and two small windows that face west, into the prevailing wind. It's a relatively large house: about 3,600 square feet. This is the danger when you build your own house: It's hard to stop. However, no basement; we felt no need for a basement. Because we dug into the side of the hill, our main living area, the main floor, essentially would be considered a basement or a walk-out basement. We didn't build on top of the hill. We built partway down the hill on the east and the south side to shelter us from the wind and to access that sunshine. Again, would an inspector give me points for that? I'm not sure.

There are two concrete walls to this house: on the north side and on the west side, into the side of the hill; hence, no windows on the main floor. We poured concrete wide enough for two-by-sixes-not two-by-fours; two-by-sixes-again to accommodate that fibreglass pink.

Code of the day-I'm not even sure if it required insulation on the inside of a concrete wall. Of course, we insulated the inside, but I also made a decision to insulate the exterior of the concrete, again using this blue SM, this closed-cell insulation material that could handle the weight of the earth as I backfilled. Again, whether I would get credit on an energy audit for all of that insulation on the outside of my concrete walls, I'm not sure. I don't know whether the government or bureaucracy or paperwork can accommodate these kinds of factors.

We poured footings and laid down gravel. One thing that my wife and I did: Before we poured the concrete floor, we tamped it down. As I say, we did most of this ourselves, although I did not pour the concrete. We laid down sheets of two-inch SM on all the floor areas, primarily on the south side of the house, where I knew that that winter sun would hit the concrete floor, which I subsequently covered with tile, the reason being that I wanted to use that winter sun-again, my goal was passive solar-to somewhat heat the floor in the morning.

Further to that, I felt that heat storage was so important in this home that I used the model of a Russian fireplace, which is a massive pile of stone and masonry. We poured very large footings to accommodate a very large chimney system in the centre of the home and then I poured a gigantic concrete box within the centre of the home, with spaces for a fireplace and a space for a wood stove. The forced-air heating system was part of that wood stove structure. Again, I don't know whether these forms that are being proposed are going to accommodate these kinds of factors.

At about that time, the municipality decided to tear down my one-room public school just up the road. We purchased 10,000 bricks and recycled the bricks. Those bricks were laid in 1916, when the mortar was sand mortar. So my wife cleaned 10,000 bricks. It's fairly easily done; it's not like the mortar today. You can't get the mortar-

Mr. Peter Kormos: Your wife cleaned the bricks? What did you do?
Mr. Toby Barrett: My wife cleaned all the bricks, all 10,000. Her shoulders were bigger than mine at the end of that project.

I notice that on many houses they put the bricks on the outside of the house for whatever reason. In our system, we put 10,000 bricks inside the house as a heat sink, laid the bricks around this gigantic concrete box that has the wood stove-my source of heat-and then I filled the cavern with just about every piece of farm machinery I could find on the farm: plowshares, cast iron, anything that would absorb heat. Again, would an energy audit pick up on some of these factors?

I did allow myself the luxury of rebuilding that Count Rumford fireplace that still remains in the old house. I rebuilt that one as well.

I just want to stress, before anybody even thinks of building a house-now, whether this would come up in this government paperwork audit-to plant the trees first. Determine where the wind is coming from and don't plant coniferous trees in front of your house; that will shade them. Don't plant them in front of your neighbour's house; you're going to block his sun. Don't put a high-rise building in front of your neighbour's house if he's aspiring to put solar panels on the south-facing incline of his roof. Check the angle of your sun; sunshine is so important. And I do want to stress-we built the second floor garrison-style. I extended the second floor about four feet out to the south and then built a roof angle. That blocks the summer sun. I don't have air conditioning in this home. We've been in it since the mid-1980s. We don't need air conditioning, but the angle allows that low winter sun, again, to come in, to warm up my insulated concrete floor, and to warm up a lot of those 10,000 bricks I was talking about.

Cloud patterns are very important if you're designing an energy-efficient house. Orient your windows to where the sun is and try and determine what time of day the clouds come up.

Wind direction is very important, not only for wintertime, but also for cooling. I mentioned the pioneer house. As I recall, the summer kitchen goes north. You've got a west door and an east door; it's open in the summer to let that breeze go through.

Be very cognizant of the soil types, the topography, the lay of your land. I don't have a sump pump, for example, because I'm partway down a hill. I use the Big " O" for drainage, and in the spring and the fall, those cold winter days, the cold air moves down. The frost is below the house.

Always have your front door facing south. In my view, it's handy for firewood, warms up that front entrance, and you can pile your firewood there and your sidewalk remains frost-free. Again, I hope the energy audit would pick this up. If the main door faces north, it's going to be snowed in. The laneway will probably be on the north side, and that will be snowed in, and you're going to expend more energy with hiring a guy to come in to clear it out. I don't know whether this is going to be covered by this legislation or not.

Before you build, collect those building materials. Recycle. I spent probably 15 years collecting doors at yard sales and auto wreckers: Triple M-I've been in and out of all of them. Get a hold of those old cast-iron grates; haul them out of buildings for your cold-air returns. Buy a used truck, maybe two trucks, and a tractor. Scrounge the windows, again, for inside windows. And again, the doors are inside doors. Recycle lumber; tear down a couple of barns and get some good barn beams. Make sure you've got a real good wood stove.

As far as these bureaucrats that designed this form, think about sunshine and think about the wind. Thank you very much.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Lou Rinaldi): Thank you.
Pursuant to standing order 47(c), six and a half hours of debate on this bill having occurred, I am now required to deem this debate adjourned unless the House leader indicates otherwise. House leader?

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Mr. Toby Barrett: I think part of my point, and I know that we here as legislators-and a number of MPPs have been here for a number of years-why are we here? Much of our role in this debate is to create new legislation and to create new regulation, and oftentimes when you have that power or when you have that hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When we try and address issues or as this bill is designed-and I heard this in a government briefing this morning-it's designed to drive behaviour. That doesn't work with many people. It doesn't work with me. I find that I do seem to get my back up.

I want to reiterate the incredible power of not only information but education. When I began my researches in the 1960s-and I had the advantage of teaching the subject for a few years-there was no Internet. I purchased a large number of paperback books. I went through these books, and I can tell you that in every book that I read, 100 or 150 pages, there would really only be one idea in the whole book that was worth using. Most of it is garbage and theory-people who perhaps have never built a house but they'll write a book on how to build a passive-solar house or an energy-efficient house.

My point is that, not only in our school system, we have tremendous access to knowledge and information and ideas. Let's not rely solely on laws and regulation and paperwork to achieve some of these laudable goals.

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