By Roy Nandram
COVID-19 has brought many unexpected changes to people’s lives all across the world. In Canada, the virus has led to the majority of people isolating at home to slow down the spread of infection.
Self-isolation measures are affecting the world in drastic ways. One is an estimated 17% reduction in daily average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during self-isolation. An estimated half of the GHG emission reduction is from the lower volume of cars on the streets.
As things return to normal, GHG emissions will once again rise. Experts estimate that the overall yearly change in emissions will be a decrease of approximately 4.5% to 7% when compared to last year. These numbers are very similar to the yearly emissions reduction set forth in the Paris Agreement – showing the severity of change needed to reach these emission goals.
Clearly, the change in emissions is temporary due to the COVID-19 virus response. But how do we make this change last?
Here are a few suggestions:
In-law suites: The struggle with COVID-19 is most severe and deadly for aging people living in retirement homes. Similar situations happen on a yearly basis with the flu spreading through retirement homes and causing devastation and lockdown. Instead of sending your parents to retirement homes, an alternative is to offer them an in-law suite within your home. This can be done by renovating the basement or creating an addition to provide them with a sense of privacy while still being close with their family. It’s also a gentle approach to intensification. By increasing the number of people living in one home, the associated GHG emissions per person are reduced.
Home Offices: Many companies have begun transitioning to having their employees work at home to deal with COVID-19. Some have begun thinking of making the change permanent. Even if people work from home half the time, this reduces traffic loads on city streets and creates a substantial reduction on GHG emissions from car travel. Also, by down-sizing on office space, associated emissions from heating and cooling are also reduced.
Ventilation and noise control: Both strategies require updates to your home environment – mostly in the areas of ventilation and noise control. With more people at home for longer periods, it’s best to upgrade your home’s HVAC system and ensure everyone is receiving adequate amounts of fresh air. This can be done by adding an HRV or ERV to your home’s HVAC system.
Other excellent ways of improving indoor air quality are adding a kitchen exhaust hood, growing indoor plants, and upgrading the furnace filter.
With more people working and living at home, the amount of noise around the home is sure to increase. There are simple ways to reduce noise transmission through homes ‒ for example, upgrading the interior wall and floor assemblies. (Speak to your local contractor to discuss this option further.)
Lighting: Home offices are now becoming the new norm and kids are being home-schooled to keep up with their learning. Because of this, home lighting requirements are changing. Consider upgrading your home lighting by switching to LED options for task and space lighting.
Energy consumption: With more people spending greater amounts of time at home, energy consumption has risen due to COVID-19. But although the energy consumption per home has risen, overall energy use is still substantially lower when compared to the standard model of working and travelling daily to an office.
All these strategies will ensure the home is a more comfortable place to work and live.
Let’s embrace some of the changes COVID-19 has brought us and make a lasting change to our society’s emission trends.
Roy Nandram is president of RND Construction Ltd.