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The greening of work. Maybe.

Updated: May 30, 2023

Telework, work-from-home, hybrid work – whatever you want to call it, the space between where you work and where you live has dramatically changed. Nowadays your office could be just a few feet away from a cozy kitchen but with a clothes dryer that needs to be emptied in between.

As more people work from home, there has been a shift in demand for houses that are suitable for telework. This transition to hybrid work is evolving, and it may be still too early to identify the long-term trends and impacts of the practice.

Is your home office painted green?

But it does seem to make sense that working-from-home is good for the environment – there should be less driving, and less heating of large office buildings. A 2020 report by the International Energy Agency found that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the largest yearly drop in global CO2 emissions ever recorded. The lockdown measures reduced energy use in commercial buildings by about 10 percent, but that has since begun to bounce back up.

So it sounds like the pandemic – and the rise of telework – was good if not great for the environment. However, people are now at home for more hours using more energy in their personal spaces, and they may still be driving a lot to get groceries now that they can’t grab a few things on the way home from work. The environmental impact, of course, depends on where you live, whether you drive (and what you drive) or take public transit, and how you heat your home vs the energy source at your office.

Tips to Save Energy

Nonetheless, there are easy ways to save green – both the natural kind and the stuff in your wallet – by following these energy savings tips. This is also a way for homeowners to take direct climate action, by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of their homes.

  • Unplug devices when they are shut off, including laptops and printers. Not only does this save energy, but it also protects your devices from power surges.

  • Purchase a power-bar or smart power strip to reduce charging time and phantom power (the energy a device uses when it’s in standby mode).

  • Turn off your monitor – screen savers and sleep mode don’t reduce energy consumption.

  • Keep the thermostat low, and put on a sweater, blanket, or use an ENERGY STAR space heater.

  • Open your blinds or curtains in the day for natural light, and close them at night for a bit of extra insulation.

  • Install weatherstripping on doors and windows to increase comfort and reduce drafts.

  • Check your HVAC system air filters and replace them if they are dirty. Clean filters use less energy and reduce the strain on your system.

Deeper retrofits for deeper savings

If you are living an energy efficient lifestyle and want to level up in energy savings, you can take advantage of available efficiency incentives or low-interest financing programs. Get an energy efficiency professional to assess your home to see if retrofits to your home can help. These could be:

  • Upgrades to your roof’s insulation.

  • Basement and/or wall insulation.

  • Air sealing to reduce air leakage.

  • Install energy efficient windows and doors.

Once you’ve explored those solutions, you can look at:

  • Installing high efficiency heating equipment, lighting and appliances

  • Home solar photovoltaic panels, if it makes sense for your home.

Beyond your front door

  • If you are out on errands and you are able to, consider green options! Walk, cycle, e-bike, or take public transportation.

  • Be aware of your online purchasing habits. We’ve seen the increase in delivery vehicles on the road as we buy more and more online. But online purchases and the associated packaging can be bad for the environment. Try to purchase less often and group products to reduce packaging and delivery trips.

The greener path: a call to real estate agents

Buildings are Canada’s third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. To meet our climate goals, Canada’s rate of retrofits will need to increase to one million dwellings retrofitted each year! Building codes and standards are being updated to drive these retrofits and the changes will be felt across Alberta’s real estate industry.

Recognizing the important role of the real estate industry in decarbonizing buildings, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and RFS Energy – with funding from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation – are exploring the impacts of upcoming building code changes, energy efficiency incentive programs, and other related policies on Alberta’s real estate sector.

The aim of this new research is to support and position real estate professionals as well-informed and trusted advisors as the industry prepares for, and adapts to, sweeping code and retrofit changes to meet municipal, provincial, and federal energy and emissions reduction goals.

If you’re interested in participating in our project, we’d love to speak with you -

please take time to fill out the form on our About Us page. One of our team members will reach out to you.

Keeping in the know

Check out our blog series Home is Where the Work Is? based on our research on telework in Alberta. Through these blog posts, we will cover topics such as:

  • Understanding how remote work is changing the real estate industry

  • How telework led people to move from the downtown core to suburban and rural areas

  • Green tips for working-from-home

  • How telework has changed how we design and use spaces

Find all our resources – and all our blog posts in this series – at Presented by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and RFS Consulting, and funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.


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