This session focused on a new energy performance standard that was designed to help builders improve their construction practices by working collaboratively with municipalities. The Energy Step Code is written to work with the B.C. Building Code but is transferable to jurisdictions outside B.C. and is currently being considered for integration with Canada’s National Building Code.
This tool was developed by consensus through the Energy Step Code Advisory Committee, which is made up of local governments, NGOs, utilities, tradespeople, professionals, builders, and developers. A subset of this cross-section of stakeholders led this session: Robyn Wark, BC Hydro (Facilitator) with Zachary May, Government of B.C.; Bob Deeks, RDC Fine Homes, and Rory Tooke, City of Surrey, British Columbia.
The impetus for the Energy Step Code stemmed from the 2015 B.C. Building Act and the B.C. Climate Leadership Plan, according to Zachary May. Both call for improving consistency in how energy efficiency is defined and measured by jurisdictions across the province and to be net-zero ready by 2032, respectively. The Energy Step Code measures energy performance of building envelope and mechanical systems and airtightness for both Part 9 and 3 (single-family/low-rise and multi-urban residential buildings, respectively) construction (See Figure 1 and Figure 2).
Figure 1: Steps for single-family homes and small buildings. To the left are jurisdictions implementing programs that meet the equivalents to these steps. Existing labels correspond to each step and Step 5 aims for Net-Zero Ready by 2032.
Figure 2: The Energy Step Code also applies to Part 3, low-rise residential and commercial buildings but only has 4 Steps.
“The BC Energy Step Code’s flexible framework allows each local government to select appropriate steps, policy mechanisms, scale, and level of incentive to achieve multiple community objectives, including energy efficiency in new buildings.” ~ Zachary May
Bob Deeks shared a builder’s perspective on the Energy Step Code; he is the Vice Chair of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Net Zero Council. Deeks said that the Energy Step Code is designed for today’s technology and the challenge is how disseminate the practice across the industry, making capacity building a top priority. He pointed out that builders who work with energy advisors reduce their costs and that some builders are unwittingly building to Step 3 already without realizing it. Deeks presented survey results that list energy efficiency among the top “must haves” among home buyers. He called for real estate agents, appraisers, and financial institutions to develop mechanisms to facilitate that consumer demand.
Speaking from the local government perspective, Rory Tooke said the Energy Step Code eases the constraints on local governments to stimulate market transformation. He described buildings with better building envelopes as more resilient and having better indoor air quality. He contrasted the envelope, a passive contributor to a building’s energy performance, with mechanical systems that require sophisticated operators to help them perform efficiently. Empowered with the “flexible consistency” provided by the Energy Step Code, combined with tools to verify performance, local governments can contribute:
Before breaking out into small groups, participants discussed what is meant by “net zero ready,” which the session leaders explained: A Net Zero Ready house could produce as much energy as it uses and it operates as modeled during the design stage (per CHBA definition). There was also concern about skill capacity within certain jurisdictions and the session leaders indicated their intent to engage the Canadian Alliance of Certified Energy Advisors to address those issues.
In small groups, participants explored key challenges currently in front of the Energy Step Code Advisory Committee:
Each group addressed all the questions, as time permitted. Figure 3 is photo of two mind maps one group developed to better understand the challenge of rolling out the Energy Step Code and possible solutions.
Figure 3: Tensions and solutions suggested by one group
Participants broke out into groups and developed several ideas they thought would make the roll-out successful. Their suggestions have been grouped according to themes the ideas have in common and are included below:
Additional recommendations not shared during the plenary report back are shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: An example of a detailed set of ideas proposed for ensuring successful roll out of the Energy Step Code.
Session Category : Intent to Action Workshop