Webcast — Renovator's Green Guide

Welcome to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC’s) webcast on a new technical information product for the home renovation industry, and for consumers who want to know more about green or sustainable home renovations.

VISUAL: Title appears on the screen: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – Renovator’s Green Guide. Images appear showing a paper cut-out of the silhouette of a house against a green, sunlit background, and a child’s hands holding up cut-outs of a family of four.

VISUAL: The images shift to focus on just the cut-out of the family and a child’s hand holding the green cut-out of the house silhouette.

Text on screen: In the Presentation.

The new online product is the Renovator’s Green Guide.

VISUAL: The cut-outs disappear as the screen fades to a series of two bullet lists providing an outline of the Presentation.

Text on screen, first bullet list: In the Presentation. CMHC has released a new online publication for the renovation industry: The Renovator’s Green Guide. Aim of this launch: Build knowledge and awareness among industry and consumers about best practices and sustainable technologies for residential renovation projects.

The objective of this new information product is to build knowledge and awareness among industry and consumers about improved practices and sustainable technologies that can be integrated into common home renovation projects.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a second bullet list, along with a photograph of a young couple looking at paint colour samples as they plan the renovation of their home.

Text on screen, second bullet list: In the Presentation. Growing interest in “green” construction. From consumers: Interest in reducing operational costs; Interest in healthy indoor environments; Interest in reducing environmental footprint. From renovators: Want to respond to consumer demand; Need to know and deliver sustainable housing options; Building trust and positioning their housing products and services with customers.

In the past few years, there has been a lot more interest in “sustainable” or “green” construction and renovation, both from the industry and from consumers.

When homeowners plan renovations, they may be interested in finding out whether the improvements they undertake can also save them money in the long term by reducing utility bills and solving pre-existing problems. There is also interest in understanding how to reduce the environmental footprint of their homes.

Renovators want to respond to that demand, and show that they can deliver sustainable housing options that meet the needs of their clients. Sharing best practices and sustainable options with customers helps to position renovators as leaders and innovators and helps them to better position their housing products and services in the marketplace.

VISUAL: The screen fades back to the cut-outs of the family and green house silhouette.

Text on screen: Background.

VISUAL: The cut-outs disappear as the screen fades to a series of four bullet lists outlining the background to, and development of, the Renovator’s Green Guide.

Text on screen, first bullet list: Background: New publication; Response to growing interest in integrating sustainable technologies and practices; Growth in the renovation industry; Renovations are an opportunity to improve home performance – from a number of standpoints.

CMHC developed the Guide in response to growing interest in the renovation industry for information on how to more fully integrate sustainable technologies and practices into common renovation projects. There is also growing consumer interest in features that can reduce energy consumption, enhance indoor air quality and reduce environmental impact.

As housing stock ages, more renovation work will be required to renew and preserve the millions of homes already built. Renovations also represent an ideal opportunity to improve the environmental performance of housing, as green features can be more easily and affordably integrated into planned renovation projects than if they are undertaken on their own.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a second bullet list, along with a photograph of a different smiling young couple watching while a contractor examines a blueprint of their home.

Text on screen, second bullet list: Drivers for development of the Guide. One: Growth in the renovation industry; Two: Growing client interest in green features – Renovators can meet demand, Need for affordability; Three: Challenge of “greenwashing” – Products and practices may fall short of environmental claims, Large number of green options can lead to confusion.

Within the renovation sector, several trends are making “green” renovations ever more important.

First, consumer interest is growing: homeowners are wondering, whether they are refinishing a basement or renovating their kitchens to the latest fashions, what opportunities there are for improving comfort, reducing heating costs, and what materials can be selected to provide long-term service, have minimal impact on indoor air quality, and have a small environmental footprint. By including well-considered features in any given renovation project, overall affordability can also be improved.

Second, renovators are aware of the increasing client interest in green features. So, they need to be able to show expertise in both established and new techniques to make their work more environmentally responsible. Giving customers green options up front also helps to build trust, and can also lead to more business. Given that many customers are on a tight budget to begin with, it’s also important that they be presented with green options that can be easily integrated into the renovation project – whether now or at some future point – and are also affordable, both in their installation and in terms of the savings to the home’s operating costs over the years to come.

Third, the interest in environmental responsibility has unfortunately resulted in “greenwashing” – claims about products and processes that aren’t really that environmentally sound or that fail to deliver the performance expected. Both customers and renovators have a bewildering array of products, technologies and practices to choose from, and it’s hard to tell which is most appropriate for any given renovation project.

VISUAL: The photograph of the couple disappears as the screen fades to a new bullet list.

Text on screen, third bullet list: Clear need for sound building science: Holistic, house-as-a-system approach; Various system components can affect one another; Changes to one system can cause unintended changes and consequences to other systems; Avoiding pitfalls; Helps renovators to meet clients’ expectations.

Finally, there is a clear need to incorporate sound building science principles into renovation work. This means viewing the house as a system, as renovations to one system can affect others – and if these are not done properly, unintended problems might arise. Understanding house-as-a-system principles can help renovators to avoid common pitfalls, to help ensure that the renovated house performs well and meets their clients’ expectations.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of another happy couple going over the floor plan of a house.

Text on screen, fourth bullet list: Development of the Guide: Other sources already online; CMHC approach – Checklist of common features; References to other credible sources.

With this in mind, CMHC moved forward with the development of an online publication that would inform renovators of the many options available to “green” common renovation projects. Because a good deal of information on sustainable practices and technologies is already available, CMHC decided to focus this effort on the development of a checklist of common green features, along with references to other credible sources of information. Renovators can use the checklist to plan green options and to inform their clients of the green features available for their projects.

VISUAL: The screen fades back to the cut-outs of the family and green house silhouette.

Text on screen:

The Renovator’s Green Guide is available for free at

VISUAL: The cut-outs fade out as the screen fades to a new bullet list outlining the content of the Guide.

Text on screen: Content – General: A reference for renovators to use to inform their clients of green options and best practices to avoid common renovation problems; Not a “how-to” installation guide; Does not address renovation preferences.

CMHC intended the Guide as a reference not just for renovators, but also for their clients – something you can work on together, in an environment of trust.

Note that this is not a how-to guide for installation. CMHC recognizes that renovation techniques, products and systems are changing too quickly to produce a definitive publication on the topic. CMHC also recognizes that the expertise and the know-how are already to be found in the industry and need not be repeated.

Likewise, as the styles and preferences in renovations are constantly changing, and certainly fall outside of CMHC’s mandate, the Guide does not provide advice on how a renovation should look. Instead, the Guide is a way to both inform and open discussions on how to make a renovation not only more sustainable but also better performing.

VISUAL: The screen fades back to the cut-outs of the family and green house silhouette.

Text on screen: Benefits.

Renovations are seldom done to specifically address green objectives alone.

VISUAL: The cut-outs fade out as the screen fades to a new bullet list outlining the benefits of green renovations.

Text on screen: Benefits: Promotes sustainable housing technologies and practices – Opportunity to improve overall house performance by addressing existing problems, Help clients understand green options, Takes an incremental approach to add sustainable options to common renovations – more affordable; Ensure that renovations work with the house-as-a-system; An opportunity for renovators to add value and demonstrate knowledge, position services.

But they do offer an excellent opportunity to address pre-existing problems and improve the overall sustainability of the renovated house. For example, when renovating a kitchen, a renovator may also be able to help with energy bills or indoor air-quality concerns by offering appropriate equipment and materials.

But it’s not enough for renovators to understand these options. Homeowners ultimately make the decisions, and need to know what they’re paying for, the benefits – and what they can save.

And “green” is not simply a consideration that can be tacked onto a renovation. As with the construction process, it’s best to take into account how systems in the house work together, so that modifying one of them does not affect the performance of others. The Renovator’s Green Guide helps renovators look at these systems together.

Though renovators face a challenge in understanding what options exist for any given job and the need to balance such measures with the homeowner’s budget and interests, they also have an opportunity to serve customers better by meeting a wider range of their needs. This will, in turn, enable a proactive renovator to capitalize on new and growing market opportunities and to distinguish his or her product and service offerings.

VISUAL: The screen fades back to the cut-outs of the family and green house silhouette.

Text on screen: Features.

So let’s look at these features in turn.

VISUAL: The cut-outs disappear as the screen fades to the first in a series of eight bullet lists on the features of the Guide and green renovations.

Text on screen, first bullet list: Features. The House-as-a-System: Puts the building science up front – Helps renovators understand interaction among systems so that renovations avoid problems and improve performance; Lays the groundwork for effective planning; Helps ensure that clients get best value for their renovations.

The Renovator’s Green Guide sets aside a section to discuss some of the building science – the ways that the systems of the house work together, and interact with the environment and the occupants, in the context of renovation projects.

Understanding building science and house-as-a-system concepts helps to lay the groundwork for effective planning for a successful, high-performing renovation project. The renovators have to be aware that changes to one or more systems in a house could have a positive, neutral or negative effect on the performance of the home. While some effects may be easily predictable, others may not be so apparent and could seriously affect how the house operates after the renovation has been completed.

By looking at the house as a system, renovators can help assure clients that the renovations will generate the efficiencies and other environmental benefits they expect, contributing to long-term customer satisfaction.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a young woman sitting at her computer, talking on the phone.

Text on screen: Example of the house-as-a-system. Envelope renovation with new insulation, air barrier and air-tight windows; Side effect: furnace that met the heating needs of a leaky house is now oversized, less efficient; Prevention: advise homeowner to have furnace size and condition checked as part of renovation.

To illustrate the value of holistic, house-as-a-system thinking, let’s look at an example.

In a renovation project, contractors add insulation to a home’s attic, exterior walls, and basement. New energy-efficient windows are installed as well. The addition of insulation reduces the heat loss of the house, which could mean that the existing furnace would be larger than necessary.

While the oversized furnace would continue to meet the home’s heating needs, it could cycle on and off more frequently, thus reducing the expected energy savings. Oversized furnaces can also create warm and cold spots throughout the house.

By taking a house-as-a-system approach, the renovator could have advised the homeowner of the need to have the furnace size and condition checked as a part of the renovation work.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a window that is wet with condensation.

Text on screen: Example of the house-as-a-system. Increased airtightness to reduce heating costs, improve comfort; Side effect: buildup of humidity, condensation of water vapour on cold surfaces; Prevention: include provisions for energy-efficient mechanical ventilation such as an HRV.

Another effect of an envelope renovation is that it might lead the homeowners to believe their new windows are faulty.

After renovators add insulation and new windows and reduce air leaks, humidity can build up in a home. Under certain conditions, this can lead to persistent problems with condensation forming on the windows, other cold surfaces and in the building envelope itself.

By understanding the potential effects of reducing air leaks, the renovator could have proposed that provisions be made to add mechanical ventilation to the house.

This shows that understanding house-as-a-system concepts is very important not only to avoiding problems but also to maximizing the post-renovation performance of the house and better meeting client needs.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a recently renovated home kitchen.

Text on screen: Features. Detailed sections on: Renovations to kitchen, bathroom, basement, bedroom, living room and dining room, attic; Additions; Mechanical system upgrades; Decks and patios. Each section can be used on its own.

Armed with the knowledge of how the house’s systems work together, industry professionals are in a better position to deal with various types of renovations. The most common types have their own sections in the Renovator’s Green Guide. This allows each section to stand alone so the renovator can more easily refer to it and provide it to the client. The sections include:

  • Renovations to kitchens, bathrooms, basements, bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms, and attics are all treated in separate sections.
  • Additions – that is expansions to the building – have their own section.
  • So do mechanical systems, for example to heating, cooling and ventilation equipment.
  • Decks and patios also have their own section as there are still many “green” considerations to make when choosing exterior materials, finishes, and landscaping.

In each section, you’ll find a “quick reference” checklist that can help you identify the key features to be considered in planning a green renovation. This is followed by more detailed “Site Conditions and House-as-a-system Considerations” that provide guidance on identifying conditions that the renovation should address and planning for them holistically. Finally, you’ll find links to more information.

Let’s look at one of these sections in detail.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a renovated residential bathroom.

Text on screen: Sample section – bathroom renovations. Quick reference checklist; Site conditions and house-as-a-system considerations: Pre-existing moisture problems; Green features, considerations and options: Water-efficient fixtures, Insulation, Low-pollutant-emitting materials.

Some of the most popular types of renovations are bathrooms.

The section on bathroom renovations begins with a “Quick reference” checklist. Here, you’ll find generic approaches specific to making bathroom renovations green – for example, by choosing water-efficient toilets. This is also an area where homeowners can save a lot on their water bills, so affordability is one of the key points raised here.

The bathroom section goes on to address site conditions and house-as-a-system considerations – for example, examining the bathroom for pre-existing moisture problems or damage that should be addressed by the renovation. As bathrooms can be expected to have high humidity, all of the materials used in the renovation should be moisture- and corrosion-resistant, while efficient and effective ventilation should be included as well.

Finally, the section details specific green features, considerations and options that renovators and clients can consider – such as the choice of exhaust fans that are energy efficient and have low noise ratings.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with a 3D diagram of a “Healthy Bathroom.”

Text on screen: Sample section – bathroom renovations: Plain language; References for more information; Helpful and intuitive diagrams.

As you go through the sections, you’ll notice a few common features.

First, the Guide was written in plain language, because it’s not intended to be an overly technical document: it’s supposed to be accessible to both renovators and their clients, who might be less familiar with technical terms.

For those who do want to know exact specifications and more technical information, each section has links to external sources, such as those that can provide specifications on thousands of environmentally preferable products.

And, because even plain language can be confusing when dealing with systems that have many features, the Guide includes clear and labelled diagrams, such as this one from the bathroom-renovation page.

VISUAL: The bullet list text fades out as the diagram of the bathroom slides over to fill the screen. The numbers one to 15 appear on the diagram with arrows pointing to different parts of the ceiling, walls, floor, window, pipes and fixtures. A corresponding numbered list fades in beside the diagram, listing all of the energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features that could be incorporated into the sample “green” bathroom renovation.

VISUAL: The diagram fades out as the screen fades to a new bullet list, with a photograph of a smiling woman at home in her kitchen, holding a coffee cup and looking at her laptop computer.

Text on screen: Healthy Housing™ themes and indicators. Themes: Occupant health; Energy; Resources; Environment; Affordability. Clear, meaningful objectives under each theme.

The Renovator’s Green Guide also includes a section on the CMHC Healthy Housing™ themes and indicators, and how they apply to renovations. CMHC defines “sustainable” or “green” through its five Healthy Housing™ themes:

  • healthy indoor environments;
  • energy efficiency;
  • resource conservation;
  • environmental impact; and
  • affordability.

There are indicators under each theme – essentially, qualities that renovators can look at to determine how well the renovation can perform within that theme. So, under the theme of “energy,” there is a set of indicators for annual energy consumption, renewable energy, peak electricity demand, and an embodied energy strategy.

For each theme, the Guide helps renovators understand the objectives that can be established under each indicator as well as challenges and approaches to implementing green features.

VISUAL: The screen fades to a new bullet list, with an image of a working floor plan for a dining room and kitchen renovation, with assorted tools and construction materials.

Text on screen: Example under the “resources” theme. Indicators: sustainable materials, design for durability, material efficiency, water conservation, and adaptability/flexibility. Material efficiency indicator: Challenges; Commentary; Strategies.

Let’s look more closely at one of the indicators. Under the “resources” theme, we have several indicators, including “sustainable materials,” “design for durability,” “material efficiency,” “water conservation” and “adaptability/flexibility,” The Guide provides strategies for meeting each of these indicators.

For example, for the indicator of “material efficiency,” the Guide:

  • identifies the challenges in making efficient use of materials, equipment and systems;
  • provides commentary on what situations would consume more materials and energy; and
  • offers strategies for reducing consumption – for example, by employing optimum-value engineering techniques.

VISUAL: The screen fades back to the cut-outs of the family and green house silhouette.

Text on screen: Renovators and clients working together.

As we mentioned before, one of the key aims of the Guide is to open discussion between renovators and homeowners on how to make a renovation address a well-defined array of sustainable or green principles, while addressing the homeowner’s needs.

VISUAL: The cut-outs disappear as the screen fades to a series of two bullet lists on how the Guide can help renovators and their clients work together. A photograph fades in of a father, mother and young girl looking happily at a laptop computer.

Text on screen, first bullet list: Renovators and clients working together: Promoting awareness of green options – Considering homeowners’ budget concerns; “Communicating with Clients About Green Renovations” section – Costs, Benefits, Expectations.

That’s not always an easy task – especially as people are understandably very particular about how they want their homes to look and are very sensitive to cost.

For this reason, the Guide provides a “Communicating With Clients About Green Renovations” section, which details some of the important topics that renovators and homeowners should cover – such as what can be achieved at different levels of cost, what to expect, and the benefits of green renovations.

VISUAL: The photograph disappears as the screen fades to a new bullet list.

Text on screen, second bullet list: Renovators and clients working together: Encouraging holistic thinking – House-as-a-system, Future-proofing, Provisions for future addition of green features; Clearing away myths and misconceptions about “green” product claims; Helping clients make affordable environmentally responsible choices.

These discussions also help homeowners to think of, and understand, the house as a system, and plan renovations that help the system’s components (such as the building envelope, mechanical systems and occupants) work together. This kind of thinking benefits both the homeowners and the environment – and creates a more durable house that does not need as much upkeep in the future.

The section also links to more information on “green product claims,” because misunderstandings about what products can do for the environment may lead to disappointment with the renovation – or the renovator.

Clients who know their options in advance are in a better position to make environmentally responsible choices within their budgets, and renovators who are open about the benefits of those options stand to build their reputations in a growing and changing industry.

VISUAL: The screen fades to white.

Text on screen: Conclusion.

This concludes our presentation on the Renovator’s Green Guide.

Text on screen:

Whether you’re a renovator or a homeowner, CMHC invites you to view the Renovator’s Green Guide on the CMHC website, and to become familiar with it, so that you can better understand the opportunities to more affordably enhance the performance of renovation projects through the implementation of integrated, sustainable technologies, best practices and house-as-a-system thinking.

For more details on this and other information products, visit our website at

VISUAL: The screen fades to white. The bilingual CMHC logo and “Home to Canadians” tagline appear on the screen.

Text on screen: The information in this publication is a result of current research and knowledge. It is not intended for the content to be relied upon as professional or expert advice or opinions. Readers should evaluate the information, materials and techniques cautiously for themselves and consult appropriate professional resources to see if the information, materials and techniques apply to them. The images and text are guides only. Project and site-specific factors (climate, cost, aesthetics) must also be considered.

VISUAL: The screen fades to white as the Canada Wordmark fades in. The Canada Wordmark fades out, and the icons for Flickr, Twitter and YouTube appear on the screen, along with the CMHC website address:


Date Published: March 31, 2018