Energy monitoring gives renters, builders the power to lower their environmental footprint

March 16, 2021

One of the proven ways to reduce your energy consumption is to see how you’re using that energy, says Wil Beardmore, president of Bluewater Energy.

At the Net Zero Ready units at Willowview Heights in Saskatoon, renters will be able to visit a website that will let them see energy trends in their home. The data will be available in real time, and as historical data that can be referenced daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

“You can see trends and directly relate that back to costs and the environmental impact,” Beardmore said.

Big Block Construction were the consultants and general contractor for the National Affordable Housing Corporation’s Willowview Heights project, which is part of a Canadian Home Builders’ Association Net Zero and Net Zero Ready program.

Bluewater is a renewable energy consulting, design, and build firm and the solar photovoltaic energy consultant on the project. They also led the commissioning of the energy monitor equipment, bringing the data acquisition hardware online.

The electricity is being monitored in detail, so renters can see how much electricity the stove uses, for example; gas is being monitored for each unit; and water is being monitored for the whole building.

The information will also be shared with CHBA and Natural Resources Canada — with protections in place to protect the renters’ privacy.

Natural Resources Canada funded the project specifically with the intent of developing the Net Zero standards for multi-unit residential buildings, Beardmore said.

“To do that effectively, we need to collect data throughout the process so we can make informed decisions about the data. … It’s all going to be very carefully analyzed and we’ll put the final recommendations together for Natural Resources Canada.”

Project will benefit all Canadians

Rivercity Technology Services helped install the monitoring system because Beardmore was unable to do the installation in person due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. They needed specialized help because it’s not the type of work electricians typically do.

Jeff Shirley, CEO of Rivercity, said one of the challenges with this project was that most of this technology assumes the resident will have Wi-Fi, but they needed to make the monitoring fully accessible in case one of the renters doesn’t have internet.

There was some troubleshooting involved but the kinks were worked out and once the renters move in, the data will help home builders across the country lessen their environmental footprint with their buildings — something Shirley said will benefit all Canadians.

“Any way we can help is a privilege,” Shirley said. “Saskatchewan is known for being a province that’s very innovative and very resourceful, and Big Block and the National Affordable Housing Corporation are doing exactly that — everyone is working together to say, how can this project be turned into the next example of how housing should be done?”

Data will help build better MURBs

One of the outcomes of this program will be to test how accurate the current government software is, says Derek Satnik, Vice-President of Technology for Smart Communities with S2E Technologies.

S2E’s role is to collect the data, downloading the information remotely, and then assess the information, looking for trends in the building’s performance.

Satnik said people look to Natural Resource Canada’s data to determine how many solar panels are needed on a building, for example, so you want those numbers to be as accurate as possible.

“It will help NRCan refine the software they use when they do energy modelling,” Satnik said. 


The first readings start coming in as soon as the technology is up and running but it starts to get interesting once they have six or 12 months of data.

Twice a year, the S2E team will login in and download everything.

“The way the energy modelling is done by the software, it’s less about day-to-day and more concerned about the overall impact,” Satnik said.

Weather changes can cause big swings in how energy is used in a house from day-to-day, so the data makes the most sense when you can see the big picture.

They’ll also compare data from the home with weather monitoring data to get an even clearer picture of why energy was used the way it was — whether to warm up or cool down the house. 

Looking at the highest level of data helps give them a better general understanding of how energy is used.

He said the program will help the entire industry shift to build better Net Zero MURBs in the future.

“It’s a big complement to Big Block that they were selected for this, but also that they stepped forward and put their name in the ring and wanted to help out. It’s S2E’s privilege to work with the most creative companies in Canada. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have companies like Big Block to work with who are proactive and willing to learn.”

About Big Block

We help purpose-driven organizations like non-profits build housing for their members, tackling the whole development process from preliminary planning and financing, to design, to on-site construction. Read more about our services.

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