From left to right: UBC Sustainability Scholars Harnav Channi, Nidah Dara, and Ghazal Ebrahimi. Photo: Emily Huang.

Students Help Smooth the Path to BC’s Net-Zero Energy-Ready Future

A trio of University of British Columbia graduate students spent the summer investigating various aspects of the BC Energy Step Code for local governments.

With support from BC Hydro, the UBC Sustainability Scholars program matches up students with local governments in need of a technical- and/or policy-research capacity boost. It works well for both parties: The communities gain fresh insights, and the students gain real-world experience exploring energy and emissions policy.

Here, we highlight three of a number of scholars whose recent investigations have helped shed fresh insights into the BC Energy Step Code and market transformation. And psst… the program is now welcoming expressions of interest for the 2019 season.

Harnav Channi, Masters Student, Faculty of Engineering, UBC.

Research project: “Digging Deeper Into the Energy Step Code Metrics: Supporting GHG Reductions at Every Step,” for the City of Surrey.

Contribution: Channi mined the 2017 Energy Step Code Metrics Research Report to uncover the most cost-effective energy conservation measures — for example, insulation values, or window U-values — to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in new buildings. The city will use the results to inform education, capacity building, and possibly incentives to drive greenhouse gas reductions that are cost-effective for both builders and occupants. [Note: Channi plans to update her research this fall to reflect the Proposed 2018 Metrics Update.]

Pearl of wisdom: “Good analysis needs good data. If you can have a clear picture of what has happened in the past, and what is happening in the present, then you can more effectively forecast the future.”

Future plans: “My focus is climate change,” she says. “I want to use data to help Canada achieve its Paris Agreement targets, and 2050 goals.”

Dr. Ghazal Ebrahimi, PhD, in Resource Management and Environmental Studies at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, UBC. [Note: She successfully defended her doctoral research in late November.]

Research project: “Corporate Energy Step Code Policy For New Buildings and Major Renovations,” for the Township of Langley.

Contribution: The Township of Langley is requiring all home builders use the BC Energy Step Code as of January. Now the government is looking ahead, and identifying other areas it can put the policy to work—including on its own new buildings. To this end, Ebrahimi provided community energy manager Tess Rouse with a detailed scan of all the corporate green building policies on the books across the region. “She provided some really useful info,” reports Rouse. “With a small staff, it is so nice to have one dedicated person working on a project like this.”

Pearl of wisdom: “As a local government, if you want to make a bigger change in the community, you can increase expectations and educate the local industry and show your commitments with public-sector leadership on energy and high-performance buildings.”

Future plans: Ebrahimi has been working with Fraser Health Authority and hopes to continue doing so: “My work is focused on trying to get an understanding of what we need to have to make sure we are building high-performance buildings, and how we can bridge the gap between expectations and what actually happens.”

Nidah Dara, Masters Student, School of Community and Regional Planning, UBC. Her research speciality is housing affordability.

Research project: “High performance housing for the missing middle: Planning & policy tools for the City of New Westminster.”

Contribution: Dara conducted a scan of building energy-efficiency policies relevant to mid-rise multi-unit residential buildings, which will be critical to addressing the affordability crisis and improving housing diversity in the Lower Mainland. She also interviewed three industry influencers on the challenges that local governments might encounter—and the opportunities they might capture. One interview subject suggested that cities could integrate prescriptive minimums to support the performance-based targets of the BC Energy Step Code.

Pearl of Wisdom: “High-performance buildings, and building science, tends to be an engineering-heavy discipline. But the more I get into this area, the more I realize that you can really put a social lens on it. Affordability and high-performance housing really do enable one another.”

Future plans: Dara is in the second year of a two-year program. “My background is housing affordability, and I want to help governments increase high-performance housing, and in particular help them communicate what it means for the average person, and dispel the common misconceptions around it.”

Stay in the loop: Sign up for the BC Energy Step Code Stakeholder Update here.

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.