Meet Donald Fast - Building Performance Engineer

Meet Donald Fast - Building Performance Engineer

Shawna HendersonOctober 25, 2022

A summary of conversation between BHE’s Program Coordinator Carla Harder (CH) and Introduction to HOT2000 Modelling instructor, Donald Fast (DF) from Capital Home Energy. You can watch or read through our conversation with Donald.


CH:  So, tell me a little bit about what you were doing before you actually became an EA.

DF: Before EnerGuide even got started. I was involved with some research projects with NRCan on what some sort of energy rating system could look like.

CH: So, you were doing research in the capacity as an engineer as well?

DF: I graduated, but not a P. Eng. at that time. The company I was with, we were doing a bunch of research. We helped design the original report. We did stuff on the air test procedure. We were well aware of what was coming.

CH: So, that was before the 2000’s? But was this after NRCan gave up training people doing their own training, because they used to train EAs?

DF: You didn't have to do their training. We delivered training for all of our EAs. Basically, it was just to prove that we were making notes to make sure we covered it all, and then we just did our own.

CH: You were involved in the back end, the initial stages of the EnerGuide program. So, then what was it that twigged you to wanting to become an EA?

DF: So, we looked at that process, and the company was doing primarily building science research. So, this was a way to get more from the company- more steady income, a different market rather than government research grants.

CH: So, the company you were with- was that largely what they were doing? And it was mostly research?

DF: It was a lot of research with  BC Hydro, CMHC, BC Buildings, NRCan. So, everybody!

CH: So, it was your company that sort of said, “Hey, this could be another economic stream for us”?

DF: We were doing the research projects, and we thought, “Well, okay, this will popularize and at least make energy analysis much more well known. Homeowners started on the path of being more energy efficient.” So, we all became EAs. At that time, there was no other certification. There was no SO; there was no QA.  It was just Designated Technical Contact- that was as close as it got to be an SO Manager.

CH: Wow. So, was NRCan doing their own QA, then as files came in?

DF: NRCan did their own QA much more than they do now. You didn't actually have a requirement to do your own. I'm sure you had to do some, but I don't remember, that was nowhere near as much as it is now.

CH: So, what do you think is interesting about the HOT2000 process of learning how to model and do that piece of the EA training?

DF: It’s always a fun mental exercise to take a house and simplify the geometry down to what you need to model the house realistically into HOT2000. Compared to commercial energy modeling, which I have done two kinds. The one kind of commercial energy modeling was just the energy analytics field- get temperatures and pressures and system status of the commercial  building minute by minute. It’s the big data analysis problem- find bad patterns in this gigabyte of data. So, that's pattern recognition and programming things. Because of the way commercial systems are put together, each building is custom programmed.

The other kind of commercial modeling I've done is where you model the building. The first one is called fault detection and energy analytics. It's making sure the building operates as you've programmed it. The second kind is modeling more like HOT2000 where you do the geometry, and the installation, the geometry and the construction, and the mechanical systems. You model it from the physics side instead of from the results side. I do it using Rhino CAD- you have to draw the whole building, and then use Energy Plus.

CH: What's the main difference between the commercial side and the residential side of energy modeling? Is it more interesting and for what reasons?

DF: The difference would be that because commercial buildings either have lots of computers or lots of other equipment, they generally have less energy loads. They have high cooling loads, but they have less heating loads because they've got the equivalent of  three or four kilowatts of baseboards that are on all the time - computers, photocopiers, printers. They're more concerned about cooling, and they're more concerned about mechanical efficiency and less about building envelopes, generally. When I was doing energy analytics, you couldn't get anybody to do air testing. Because of the huge variety of commercial buildings, there's no pre-packaged systems. There's a pre-packaged boiler, but then you have to design all your radiators and all the controls because it's going to be a big building; it's going to be multi-zone. You probably have two or three different boilers of different sizes with different on and off test set points. So, the whole mechanical system gets a lot more complicated. It's a bigger building.

The [residential] houses are simpler; they're easier to understand. A furnace is a furnace. Somebody hasn't gone in and done custom programming on when to open the gas valve versus how much to do variable flow rate on the fan. Even if it has a multi-stage blower, or an ECM adjusted blower with multiple more than three stages- it's not programmed at the house. It's programmed with the manufacturer of the furnace. There's a lot more houses than there are commercial buildings. In terms of energy commitment and energy use in the economy, residential buildings are going to use a lot more than commercial buildings.

CH: Tell me a bit about when you started doing training and what you liked about that.

DF: I have always liked training and coaching people. I'm a triathlon coach. I've coached beginning triathletes to higher level triathletes how to swim, bike, and run effectively. Outside of this, I've done lots of coaching. Helping people to develop new skills- it feels good.

CH: With your experience in Ontario and also working in BC now, what do you think a professional EA can apply the skills, maybe even beyond just being a straight up auditor?

DF: There's lots of demand for EAs. Through the Canadian Energy Auditors Association, there's room for lots of training. All sorts of organizations give more training. There's always more to learn for the EA in terms of proper vapor barrier and air barrier, better insulation techniques and how to reduce thermal bridging through every component. All of that expands the EA. This means they can then consult with builders, not just homeowners, to help design better buildings because they know what needs to be done.


Introduction to HOT2000

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