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Banff's closed door proposal moving along

“We’ve known for a long time that this is low hanging fruit when it comes to doing the right thing for the environment, but we just weren’t there as a community in terms of the conversation around our GHG and climate change in general,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff is one step closer to banning businesses from propping open their front doors in winter following more than a decade of discussion.

At a meeting on Monday (April 11), the governance and finance committee asked administration to come back with amendments to the community standards bylaw that would ban businesses from opening their doors between Thanksgiving weekend and May 1 each year.

However, the committee also voted 6-1 to put in a caveat to allow doors to be open when temperatures climb above 10 degrees Celsius given that Banff can experience warm days in winters, especially with Chinooks.

Councillor Barb Pelham voiced support for adding the temperature caveat, saying it allows businesses to bring in fresh air on warmer days.

“I very much appreciate the evolution of this policy to accommodate those crazy days when you have a sudden warming event,” she said.

Administration had suggested an outright ban from Thanksgiving to May 1 and recommended against any weather-based approach because of challenges around enforcement with daily temperature fluctuations and different reported temperatures from various sources.

The Town of Banff has received complaints from residents for a number of years about businesses propping open their exterior doors in an effort to encourage potential customers to enter the establishment.

There have been concerns that this practice flies in the face of a model environmental community and the municipality’s climate action policies, including reducing greenhouse gases by 30 per cent below 2016 levels by 2030.

Mayor Corrie DiManno, who was the only elected official to vote against the temperature caveat, said the conversation on closing doors has been happening for the better part of a decade at the council table, noting it was at the council table in 2013 but failed at second reading of a bylaw at the time.

“We’ve known for a long time that this is low hanging fruit when it comes to doing the right thing for the environment, but we just weren’t there as a community in terms of the conversation around our GHG and climate change in general,” she said.

“Everyone needs to do their part for us to be able to move the needle on our GHG emissions. We know that buildings are a top producer of that and I am in favour of us continuing this conversation.”

A recent study by administration showed about 30 per cent of businesses were propping open their exterior doors. The study demonstrated that some businesses continue to prop open their exterior doors when the outside air temperature is below -25°C and it is typically the same businesses.

The Town has heard concerns from businesses that to comply with a closed door policy would put them at a disadvantage as closing their door would have a direct impact on sales.

“The reality is when the door is open it really is more inviting,” said Coun. Grant Canning, though he supported the winter ban on open doors until the temperature reaches 10 degrees C.

“There is a mental block when that door is closed and it’s much more likely for someone just to walk by.”

Mayor DiManno didn’t buy into that argument, saying the fact that only about 30 per cent of businesses had their doors open during the study time validates her point.

“After Banff Refreshing and Bear Street, we’ve built a world that’s made for the pedestrian and it’s on the pedestrian scale,” she said.

“If you’re walking, you can see things at your level, you’re not driving by and trying to crane your neck to see what’s open and what’s closed so I don’t fully buy into the marketing piece.”

Sally Biddlecombe, municipal energy coordinator for the Town of Banff, said open doors increase the heat loss from a building, which elevates the heating energy requirements for shop floors, and are a highly visible form of energy waste to residents and visitors.

“This avoidable waste is especially apparent in the wintertime, when pedestrians notice that doors are open despite the low outdoor temperatures,” she said.

Coun. Canning said he understands the issue of air curtain use has been brought up by some businesses throughout the years – with some businesses indicating targeted air curtains installed above open doors mitigated their energy losses.

He said he may bring up a motion to have council consider at 2023 service review adding a rebate for air curtains under the environmental rebate program.

“There is a benefit to having it there regardless of what we do with this policy,” said Coun. Canning.

Air curtains produce a high velocity stream of air across a doorway that can create a barrier between the inside and the outside of a space.

Biddlecombe said the barrier is created by the air streams’ ability to resist the differential pressure between the inside and outside of the space, whereby the air blowing from the unit is strong enough to overpower the force of air coming from outside.

She said if the air curtain is sized and installed correctly and the outside and inside air are not allowed to mix, then installing an air curtain will reduce energy losses and create a more comfortable draft-free environment compared to an open door without an air curtain.

However, she said the barrier is not an effective seal; warm air will still leak out of the open door and cold air will leak into the space through infiltration. This cold air then needs to be brought up to room temperature by the heating system. When the door is closed, Biddlecombe said the building envelope around the space is sealed, and so less energy is lost through infiltration.

“The optimum conditions for energy savings would, therefore, be to have the door closed unless in use and have an air curtain operating only when the door is opened, if required, i.e., when the outside air temperature is much colder or much warmer than the required inside temperature,” she said.

Councillor Kaylee Ram, who supported the caveat of allowing doors to open in winter when the temperature reaches 10 degrees C, also indicated she may make a motion when the bylaw comes back to council to change the end date from May 1 to April 1.

“We have to be environmental leaders and everyone’s concerned about the emissions it gives off, however we’re also supporting economic recovery in the businesses,” she said.

“I really like that this is a temperature adjustment as well and I think it will give more structure and guidance to businesses.”