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BC Step Code Requires Diligence

The purpose of BC’s upcoming Step Code is to fast-track energy efficiency in new homes. Problems with this approach are:

  1. The Step Code changes the BC Building Code’s primary mandate from health and safety to climate change. Climate change is important, but leaky condo showed consumer protection must come first.
  2. The Step Code does not effectively address climate change. There is a reduction of only 1 or 2 air changes per hour (GHGs) in already energy efficient, new homes. Renovation of an older home can save 20 air changes.
  3. BC agreed to harmonize BC’s Building Code with the National Code. The Step Code violates that agreement, neglects national due diligence and undermines consumer protection.
  4. BC’s previous govt signed the Step Code in April prior to a cost/benefit study. These studies normally provide critical information for the minister before signing.
  5. The govt’s estimated costs are much lower than indicated in our survey of builders. The govt does not build and sell homes. When the public calls for quotes, they will not resemble the govt’s estimates.
  6. Enabling 160 municipalities to cherry-pick 1 of 5 energy efficiency steps is a recipe for unintended consequences. High levels of energy efficiency require education and proven practice, not yet sufficiently demonstrated in large numbers.

Our recommendation is Step Code tiers should be introduced in 5 year increments after affordability, education and proven practice have been established, which still gets the province to its stated goal of Net Zero by 2032. Technology will also close the gap. 

Climate change is most effectively addressed now by reducing air changes in older homes via a renovation tax credit using a small percentage of BC’s $2 billion Property Transfer Tax revenue.

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This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist newspaper.

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