Building Simulation: An International Journal

Article Title

A simulation-based evaluation of the absolute and comparative approaches in a code compliance process from the energy use perspective: Cold-climate case study


performance path, energy efficiency, absolute target, percent better than code, reference building, archetype


Like many countries, Canada's building code includes a performance compliance path that compares the energy use of a proposed design to that of a reference house. Today, provinces across Canada are contemplating an alternative absolute energy use intensity approach. However, the effect of adopting the absolute approach on house design is not well understood. This study first developed a proof-of-concept methodology for a technical simulation-based comparison of the two approaches. Then, it performed a comparative analysis between the design outcomes of the two approaches using the developed methodology. To this end, statistically representative archetypes were configured to comply with the prescriptive requirements of the building code. Key characteristics of each archetype were then varied through parametric study, and the resulting energy performance under the absolute and comparative approaches were analyzed. The results of this study indicated that the two approaches had different effects on the design and energy use of houses in heating-dominated climate zones. Houses performing better under the absolute approach consumed less energy and exhibited more compact architectural form. These houses were also less sensitive to improvements in airtightness and envelope than houses performing better under the comparative approach. The results suggest that adopting the absolute approach based on the energy use intensity metric in building codes would encourage design and construction of houses with higher energy efficiency.