B.C. policy on energy-efficient buildings spurs innovative technologies and new jobs

Mark Lowey
September 25, 2019

The recently implemented BC Energy Step Code regulation is driving B.C.’s fastest-growing cities and towns to incentivize or require higher levels of energy efficiency in new building construction.

The policy and accompanying regulation are also creating a new market for high-efficiency building products along with new jobs, according to a study by the Vancouver Economic Commission.

Twenty-four of the province’s 162 local governments to date have adopted the policy. Collectively, that represents more than 70% of new construction activity in the province.

The regulation allows communities to require their builders to surpass the BC Building Code’s minimum legal energy-efficiency requirements. The enhanced standard also empowers builders to pursue innovative, cost-effective solutions, and enables them to incorporate leading-edge technologies as they become available.

B.C. has set a target that all new buildings must be “net-zero energy ready,” having exceptionally high levels of energy efficiency performance, by 2032. Also, the province plans to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 (based on 2007 levels). The BC Energy Step Code will help in meeting those targets, according to the Vancouver Economic Commission study.

The regulation also will create a local market of $3.3-billion for high-efficiency building products between 2019 and 2032, the study says. The Energy Step Code is expected to help create 925 manufacturing jobs throughout B.C. and 770 ongoing installation jobs in Metro Vancouver, it says.

“We’re seeing a real surge in exceptionally energy-efficient buildings and stable, well-paying jobs for people to manufacture, install, and service the materials and components that go into them,” said Luke Dolan, CEO of Vancouver-based Capital Home Energy and the B.C. director of the Canadian Association of Consulting Energy Advisors.

Energy advisors work with builders to ensure their projects meet the requirements of the BC Energy Step Code in a cost-effective manner.

[rs_quote credit="Corey Diamond, executive director of Energy Efficiency Canada" source="New York Times"]With the BC Energy Step Code, British Columbia has set a new national bar for action on new-building energy efficiency.[/rs_quote]

“As more B.C. communities start requiring higher levels of energy efficiency in new construction, we’re expecting to see many more energy advisors, and other positions for people who have the skills to manufacture or install building products and technologies or are willing to learn them,” Dolan said.

Performance approach used

The BC Energy Step Code uses a step-based performance approach rather than a prescriptive one. The enhanced code establishes a desired outcome and leaves it to the design and building team to decide how to achieve it. To comply with the new standard, builders must use energy software modelling and on-site testing to demonstrate that both their design and the constructed building meet the requirements of the standard.

The approach echoes that taken by many green-building certification programs, including Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Start for New Homes and R-2000 programs, and the Canadian Home Building Association’s Net Zero Home and New Zero Ready Home programs.

By 2032, the BC Building Code will move toward the higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code as a minimum requirement.

“With the BC Energy Step Code, British Columbia has set a new national bar for action on new-building energy efficiency,” Corey Diamond, executive director of Energy Efficiency Canada, told RE$EARCH MONEY. “The province has proven out an innovative new model for transforming communities for a low-carbon future, and other provinces and territories can confidently follow in its footsteps.” Nova Scotia is looking at doing something similar to the BC Energy Step Code, he added.

Formulation of building codes in Canada start with the federal “model building code.” Currently, some provinces harmonize their building codes with the federal model, while some provinces do more and some do less. But there’s now a move to make the federal model building code very similar to B.C.’s Energy Step Code, Diamond says. “There’s also this movement to harmonize across all 10 provinces. So no matter what or where you are, you do what the [federal] model building code says.”

Energy Efficiency Canada, a national voice for an energy efficient economy, is housed at Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre.

Global market growing for green building products

Canada’s green building industry produced more than $23 billion in GDP and 297,890 jobs in 2014, according to the Canada Green Building Council.

The global market for green building products is estimated to grow to as much as $350 billion annually by 2020, the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) study says.

Between the regional adoption of the BC Energy Step Code and the Vancouver Zero Emissions Building Bylaw, a total of $3.3 billion in high-performance building systems and materials will be needed for buildings in the Lower Mainland to meet these two policies, the study says.

The City of Vancouver aims to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050, with all new buildings producing zero emissions before 2030.

Vancouver has added 7,689 green building jobs from 2010 to 2016 – a 53% increase, according to the VEC’s green jobs research update.

“With our engineering and construction know-how, the Vancouver region is ideally positioned to develop its local manufacturing sector to serve the green building industry,” Catherine Warren, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission, said in a statement.


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