By Kristen Frisa
Ontario Construction News staff writer
Like many instructors, Tom Davis is fixated on transferring knowledge to the next generation through the classes he teaches.
In Davis’ case, he’s teaching building science and climate science to his classes at Fanshawe College in London. He really wants to impress on his students the need to change minds, to change trends, and get building going in a new trajectory.
Davis, who owns Green-Tech Environmental Engineering Ltd. out of Toronto and teaches full time at the School of Building Technology at Fanshawe, has over 25 years of experience in consulting, land development, design, and project management for heavy construction projects across the globe.
In his teaching role, he’s focussed on teaching his students about green energy technology and building. “Of all the energy consumed on the planet, 40 per cent of it goes into buildings,” Davis says, through heating, cooling, lighting them up, and running appliances. “Of that, 40 per cent is haemorrhaged back into the planetary system and is no benefit to anyone.”
Davis says that although he teaches green building, and he’s even planning to build a net zero building on campus in the coming years, the best bang for humanity’s buck is going to be in retrofitting existing buildings.
For example, Davis says Londoners spend 1.5 billion dollars a year putting energy into their homes, and that money flows out of the community. But retrofitting a home requires labour and supplies that are local.
While the costs may be more up front, he says by using photovoltaic panels, the energy plant is on the roof. “We’re investing in the technology,” he says, so living in those homes will be cheaper going forward. In fact, he says homes can run on 70 per cent less energy.
“Then making enough energy on the roof is not such a big deal,” Davis says.
Davis is working on all the plans to retrofit Kestrel Court, one of Fanshawe’s student residences. Kestrel Court is starting out a pretty typical building – which Davis says is poor from a thermodynamic perspective. However, he says after the work is done it will be producing more energy than it uses, so it will give it back to the college.
Davis says his students get really excited about green building for the future. “They understand what’s happening. They feel frustrated that little or nothing has been done to date,” he says.
And he’s excited for them, because they’ll graduate with a knowledge that has been lacking in the marketplace.
“It doesn’t help if I know how to fix the world but I don’t tell anybody,” he says, “So I’m fixated on knowledge transfer.”
In addition to teaching at Fanshawe College in London, Davis speaks at conferences, trying to spread the word about green building practices. On May 7 he gave a morning and then an afternoon talk at the Canadian Home Builders National Conference in Niagara Falls. He says the industry trend is toward more sustainable practices.
He said the average person who’s not ready for retrofitting an entire home, starting out by changing small can make a difference. “Then they’re started down that road,” Davis says, so next time the homeowner makes a change, energy efficiency will be a factor along with the aesthetics of the home. “Rather than just changing for curb appeal, change it so it makes a difference,” he says. He says there’s a human health and comfort aspect that makes efficiency very appealing.
Davis relays his own sense of urgency onto his students. “I tell them, this gets solved on your watch, or doesn’t get solved,” he says, “we have until 2050 to get off carbon completely.”
“All the technology exists, we don’t have to invent anything,” he says. “We have to get over apprehension, fear of things that are different or new.”