The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial regulation that local governments can use to significantly improve the energy efficiency of new homes that will be built in their communities. It’s a series of five steps, each representing a higher level of energy efficiency. The higher the “step” a community requires its builders to reach, the more efficient its homes will be.
There are many reasons why a local government would want to use the Step Code to require better-than-code energy efficiency in new construction. Here are a few:
Greenhouse Gas Reductions
If your community’s new homes are likely to be heated with natural gas, the BC Energy Step Code will reduce the amount of that fuel they need to burn to stay comfortable. A well-insulated and well-sealed Step 3 home will not be wasting nearly as much energy as one built to the minimum code requirements. Result: Fewer carbon emissions.
Healthier, More Comfortable, and Better Quality Homes
Homes built to higher energy efficiency standards offer multiple benefits to those who live in them. Such homes are:
- More comfortable, because energy-efficient buildings do a better job managing temperature.
- Healthier, because they do a better job circulating fresh air.
- Quieter, because they are better insulated and sealed up.
- More affordable to heat, because they require less energy to stay warm.
- Better for the climate, because they reduce natural-gas usage.
Protecting Consumers Through Verification
Municipalities using the Step Code will require builders to confirm—via widely available computer modelling software—that their proposed buildings will reduce energy use. Once the walls are up, on-site testers verify the home is properly sealed to reduce heat loss. This two-stage verification protects consumers; it gives them confidence that their new home will be comfortable and efficient, and allows them to make more informed choices in the marketplace.
Green Economic Development
British Columbia already boasts some of the highest-performing buildings in North America, and if widely adopted, the Step Code will further strengthen that leadership position. As more communities require the regulation, our green-building design, construction, and manufacturing sectors will flourish. (See Also: Green Buildings Jobs Map, Pembina Institute; Green Building in Canada: Assessing the Market Impacts & Opportunities, Canada Green Building Council)
The Building Industry is On Board
British Columbia’s biggest homebuilding-industry associations not only support the BC Energy Step Code, they helped develop it. They were part of the process that helped design the regulation and develop the implementation guidance that allowed for local government regulators to adopt Step 3. They appreciate how it gives them a “shared language” on energy efficiency between local governments. Builders also like the certainty that the standard offers—it telegraphs a clear message on where the province is headed on climate and energy efficiency. Finally, many builders say it’s easier to comply with Step Code’s “performance based” approach to delivering on energy efficiency compared with the prescriptive approach of the BC Building Code.
Industry is Ready
The building industry already has the skills and the know-how to deliver Step 3 homes today. The upgrades required to meet these new steps are possible with conventional construction practices that have been proven all over the province. We don’t need any new technology or complicated techniques, the B.C. building industry is ready to deliver!
Last year, the Province of British Columbia (through BC Housing) commissioned two important studies. The first is the most comprehensive study of the costs of high-performance buildings ever undertaken in Canada. The second is an industry capacity survey that examined the readiness of the building industry to deliver on the Step Code.
The research suggests that meeting the requirements of the Lower Steps will involve only very modest construction premiums. In most cases, builders can meet their requirements for less than a 1.5 percent premium above the construction cost of a conventional home. It also showed that the industry is ready to deliver these homes.
That’s why we are urging local governments to require Step 3 across the board for almost all new homes built in their community. The study shows that the costs of doing so are minimal, while the benefits are measurable and significant. We can get better homes now and take significant action on climate change.
If you are an elected official or local-government staff member and would like to request a presentation on the Step Code, one of our members will be pleased to help. Please reach out to info@ThreeForAll.ca
If you are a citizen, please email your local-government leaders and ask them to require Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code across your community.¹ Point them to this site, and in particular our “Why Adopt It?” page. You might also write a letter to the editor of your community newspaper, or post to one of your community’s Facebook groups. Thank you!
¹ The Energy Step Code is not applicable within the City of Vancouver.
Three for All is an initiative of Three For All BC—an informal alliance of companies and organizations calling for local-government leadership on energy-efficient buildings via the BC Energy Step Code: The Canada Green Building Council, Integral Group, The Open Green Building Society, Passive House Canada, The Pembina Institute, and Recollective Consulting.
We are grateful for generous support from Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity).