Canada’s net-zero energy ready (NZEr) model codes are expected to be available for provincial/territorial adoption in the winter of 2021. Building energy codes like the model codes are an opportunity for governments at all levels to deliver immediate benefits and prepare for Canada’s long-term clean-economy growth.
Urgent action is needed to completely decarbonize the building sector. A natural place to start is by ensuring all new buildings are highly energy efficient and zero-carbon.
Policy changes we need to improve building performance
1. Adopt the 2020 model codes
Canadian provinces and territories need to adopt the model codes quickly and at the highest performance tier their jurisdiction is able to deliver on.
Given that a quarter of the homes and buildings we will live and work in by 2030 have yet to be constructed, the proposed 2020 model codes are urgently needed to avoid locked-in inefficiencies and emissions.
2. Municipalities must push provinces/territories to adopt the model codes upper tiers
Over 500 Canadian municipalities have declared a climate emergency. The tiered code system could deliver advanced municipalities the ability to adopt the upper tiers in their jurisdiction, sooner rather than later.
Provinces, territories and municipalities can also go beyond the model codes by leveraging complementary actions such as building labelling and green development standards to create incentives or reduce barriers that accelerate increased energy efficiency and sound environmental practices.
3. Ensure compliance with codes
Regulation is only effective with enforcement. The energy savings and climate reductions resulting from increasingly stringent building energy codes can only be realized when the building energy code is enforced.
As reported in Efficiency Canada’s 2019 Canadian Provincial Energy Efficiency Scorecard, few resources are currently dedicated to promoting compliance with building energy codes and, if compliance rates are low, building energy codes will not result in the expected energy savings, even if widely adopted by the provinces and territories.
4. Go beyond the model codes
Canadians need building energy codes that reflect our expectations of a net-zero emissions future.
To accelerate this transformation provinces and territories are encouraged to adopt the model codes and make amendments to include mandatory airtightness testing, zero carbon heating and water heating systems and complementary measures such as electric vehicle charging readiness. Provinces, territories, and local governments can also lead and set stringent standards for low carbon government buildings.
Ambitious actions today paves the way for next-generation regenerative or restorative buildings designed and operated to have a net-positive impact on the environment.
Reaching the market transformation objective of all new buildings constructed to NZEr standards by 2030 requires a multitude of policy tools that support the national model codes development system.
This includes building energy codes that are part of a cohesive and informed framework of policy incentives that make buildings better overall. These policies must also prioritizes tangible co-benefits such as affordability, local economy, health, and equity.
Policy strategies we need to get better building codes adopted
Adoption of better building energy codes can drive energy efficient new construction and create market demand for a range of high-performance building products and assemblies. This will, in turn, attract investment and create new opportunities and skilled jobs in Canada’s clean-growth economy. And, over the long-term, these actions will lock-in the structural changes that Canada needs to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reach a net-zero emissions future by 2050.
You can lay the groundwork for the adoption of better building codes in your province or territory by advocating for the following policy strategies.
Leverage the power of your people with stakeholder councils
- Pitch a ‘big tent’ and bring together all those interested in the buildings sector to figure out the “how” of implementation rather than the “why.”
- Follow the lead of the BC Energy Step Code Council and support better building code adoption through training and capacity building opportunities for local governments, industry, and other stakeholders.
- Communicate the benefits of code mandated net-zero energy ready buildings. This includes advice and clarification on technical aspects of the standard.
Get utilities and energy efficiency organizations involved
- Encourage utilities to use their programs to develop new tools for building energy analysis, develop new compliance tools, identify areas in need of training, and use financial incentives to drive market transformation.
- British Columbia stands out in this regard; the province requires its two utilities to each spend a minimum of 1% of their budget on codes and standards activities. As a result, BC Hydro has been particularly active in supporting the BC Energy Step Code.
Mobilize municipalities to advance better building codes
- A coalition of leading municipalities can take measurable steps to reduce energy consumption and emissions by advocating for provincial/territorial governments to adopt better building codes.
- Encourage local elected officials to join their peers and push for the power to adopt more aggressive tiers of the national model code specific to their jurisdiction.
- Municipal networks can pursue green development standards, for example those that incentivize low-carbon heating systems, that set enhanced standards for construction and development by minimizing the impacts of new development.
- Municipalities can share building code compliance best practices to better align municipal climate objectives and buildings sector ambitions.
- Encourage complementary policies such as mandatory building energy labeling, training, and the development and implementation of a building energy code compliance regime.
This project was made possible with funding from The Atmospheric Fund (TAF)
© Efficiency Canada 2021