British Columbia Looking to Step Up Building Energy Performance in 2022
The BC Energy Step Code could form the backbone of the province’s forthcoming Clean Growth Strategy
In July, British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change published “Clean and Efficient Buildings.” The document, which the province calls an Intentions Paper, outlines a series of built-environment policies and actions that the province is considering including in its forthcoming Clean Growth Strategy.
The paper makes multiple references to the BC Energy Step Code, and a range of other tools, actions, and policies (think energy labeling) shown to accelerate market transformation and adoption of high-performance buildings. Here’s what the province is putting on the table:
Mandate 20 Percent Efficiency Improvement by 2022
British Columbia is considering mandating a level of energy efficiency that would align with the requirements of Step 3, Part 9 and Step 2, Part 3 of the BC Energy Step Code. Should government move ahead with its proposal, by 2022 all new buildings would need to meet a level of performance 20 percent above and beyond today’s minimum requirements.
The province is also thinking about requiring an efficiency level that would align with the requirements of Step 4, Part 9, and Step 3, Part 3, by 2027. This would yield buildings that are 40 percent more energy efficient than those built today.
The province has long stated that it will require net-zero energy-ready new construction by 2032—a target that prompted the development of the BC Energy Step Code. But this is the first mention of legislated interim targets. Whether government moves ahead with them, or not, with this move it sends industry and local governments a clear signal about where the code is headed on energy efficiency.
Expand BC Energy Step Code Coverage
The government is also considering expanding coverage of the BC Energy Step Code to include additional building types such as institutional buildings.
New Energy Efficiency Incentive Program
The province is developing a new incentive program for households, businesses, and the public sector that would complement existing programs offered by BC Hydro and FORTIS BC.
Building owners could “receive incentives to install the most efficient gas-fired heating equipment, switch to an air-source heat pump or improve the building’s envelope, for example by adding insulation or replacing windows.”
Introduce a Retrofit Code by 2024
The province has proposed to develop a new code that would address alterations to existing buildings. The code would align with a forthcoming federal renovations code and support a range of other priorities, “including energy efficiency, earthquake safety, and occupant health and safety.”
Develop Tools to Target Building Carbon Emissions
As part of the clean growth strategy, the province offered to work with stakeholders to determine the best tools to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions intensity in buildings. Options on the table include:
- “Enabling local governments to regulate emissions intensity through targets, in policy or by bylaw.”
- “Tying emissions intensity targets to incentive programs offered by utilities or the province,” and/or
- “Developing voluntary codes and standards, similar to the Energy Step Code, to regulate GHG emissions directly in the BC Building Code.”
“This approach requires flexibility,” the province says, “as emissions vary site-by-site and community-by-community.”
Funding for Low Carbon Buildings Innovation
The province may create a Low Carbon Buildings Innovation Program for manufacturers, developers and builders. The program would include annual competitive calls to address:
- Research: “Building solutions that show promise but may require further innovation before being commercialized, such as vacuum insulated wall panels and windows, or natural gas heat pumps.”
- Commercialization: “Building solutions that have been tested and are ready to be scaled up for wider application such as high-performance prefabricated external insulation systems,” and
- Demonstration: “Building solutions currently available in the marketplace that require demonstration to build industry capacity and public acceptance, such as net-zero energy-ready construction.”
Such a program would aim to stimulate development of innovative, low-carbon building solutions and demonstrate their benefits.
Building Energy Labelling Requirement
The province is considering requiring energy-efficiency building labelling that would allow prospective buyers and renters to objectively compare the energy performance of buildings and homes.
The program would require buildings undergo an assessment and be given an energy efficiency rating, which would be disclosed when the property was listed for sale or rent.
(Related: A new City Green Solutions report explains how local governments that have referenced the BC Energy Step Code in their bylaws or policies can ensure homebuyers have access to such a home energy label.)
Funding for BC Energy Step Code Training
The province may establish an accreditation program for Certified Retrofit Professionals and expand BC Energy Step Code training.
- The retrofit program would aim to increase consumer confidence, and would cover key trades and services, including professionals in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, windows, and insulation.
- The province might also provide additional funding for BC Energy Step Code training. It might make such training available to builders, air tightness testers, construction trades, architects, engineers, energy modellers, and building inspectors.
The provincial government invited public input on the Intentions Papers between July 20 and August 24. It will release a summary of the input it received, then release its Clean Growth Strategy this fall.
Glave Communications produced this post on behalf of the Training and Communications Subcommittee of the Energy Step Code Council, with resource support from BC Hydro. In an effort to increase awareness and understanding of the BC Energy Step Code, the Energy Step Code Council is sharing information on how and why builders and communities are using the new standard. Local governments may use the BC Energy Step Code, if they wish, to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code.