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Award-winning designer dedicated to environment

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

It's been 25 years since Stephen Carpenter began designing energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings. Though his designs have long allowed us to save money, it wasn't until we became more interested in saving the environment that he was fully able to realize his potential.
Stephen Carpenter, president of Enermodal Engineering, stands in front of the University of Ottawa biology building, the country's most energy-efficient building.

"Today, we're concerned about climate change, smog and acid rain. The root cause of all those things is our use of energy," says Carpenter, president of Enermodal Engineering ( in Kitchener.

Responsible energy

The consulting firm is dedicated solely to improving the energy and resource efficiency of buildings and building products. It designs energy-efficient buildings, develops energy and building software, and technology transfer systems.

Interest in green design has come a long way since Carpenter graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1977 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He completed a Masters degree in renewable energy technologies three years later and established Enermodal.

"The OPEC oil crisis and energy was a hot topic back then," says Carpenter, the country's leading designer of sustainable buildings. "We found our business went up and down with the price of oil. Into the '80s, the price of oil dropped and energy conservation wasn't on people's minds.

"In the early to mid-1990s, the environmental issue came to the front. Conserving energy wasn't only about the price of oil. There was a higher purpose of creating more sustainable communities."

In 1992, Enermodal won the Natural Resources Canada Advanced Houses Design Competition for its design of a green home in Waterloo. Four years later, it won another federal competition, this time for designing Green on the Grand in Kitchener.
Carpenter is presented with a medal from the University of Waterloo.

It was the country's first C2000 office building, a designation that recognizes energy efficiency and environmental responsibility in commercial construction. It uses less than one-half the energy, electricity and water normally used to operate a commercial building -- all at a cost premium of 7.4% of construction.

"The biggest stumbling block is the perception that green or sustainable buildings cost a lot of money," Carpenter says. "If you do it right, the incremental cost is just a couple of percentage points in the total cost of construction. That's usually for energy-saving equipment -- a cost you will recoup in a couple of years."

The federal government's Commercial Building Incentive Program, which encourages the design and construction of energy-efficient buildings, has helped advance green design. "It's been the door opener for us," Carpenter says. "Once we're inside, sustainable design sells itself."

Platinum, gold, silver

Carpenter applauds a new point-based rating system adopted by the Canadian Green Building Council. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) awards points for attributes considered environmentally beneficial.

A building design can be certified to one of four levels: platinum, gold, silver and certified. "It's a challenging system," Carpenter says. "A normal building built today might get five credits, but you have to get 26 credits to get the lowest LEED rating. It's trying to change the way we design buildings."

Carpenter is the first LEED Accredited Professional in Ontario and the only Ontario-based LEED trainer. Enermodal is currently working on more than a dozen LEED buildings.

"One of our largest market sectors is universities," Carpenter says. "They want to create an image as a progressive, environmentally-concerned institution ... We find it exciting when we see university students interested in energy conservation. That's the future."

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