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2017 Federal Budget Proposes Net Zero Buildings – Who Pays?

The 2017 federal budget document proposes increasing the energy efficiency of homes and buildings in Canada.

Page 128 – Greener Buildings

“Making Canada’s building and industrial sectors more energy efficient will reduce emissions, make homes and buildings more comfortable, and help to lower energy costs, which can also make Canadian industries more competitive. To continue the work already underway to make the building and industrial sectors more energy efficient, Budget 2017 proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $67.5 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, to renew and continue existing energy efficiency programs. Budget 2017 also proposes to provide Natural Resources Canada with $39.8 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, to support projects and activities that increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure projects (for example, in mid-rise commercial and industrial buildings), helping to create new markets for sustainable Canadian products. These programs will be supported by another Budget 2017 proposed national program to develop and implement new building codes to retrofit existing buildings and build new net-zero energy consumption buildings across Canada. “

There is no question the greatest reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) is by retrofitting older homes, as we outline in this column.  However, this is best accomplished through a renovation tax credit, not yet announced by the government.

On the other hand, Net-Zero housing offers minimal reduced GHGs compared with already energy efficient new homes, as we outline here and here.  Ottawa’s pursuit of this agenda scores political points, but achieves little real benefit. In addition, it adds significantly to the cost of housing. Over time, the industry will achieve more efficient buildings, but this will be accomplished through proven practice and affordability, not regulation by those with limited knowledge of the marketplace. We will keep our eyes on upcoming changes to the National Building Code, usually proposed in the Fall.

The most concerning development is BC’s upcoming Step Code intended to fast-track Net Zero homes in the BC Building Code at enormous cost in Canada’s most expensive province. It’s a classic case of diminishing returns, adds tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home and will eliminate young families from the market. It’s also a case of political one-upmanship by BC over Ottawa in the political race to be perceived the “most green.” Considering BC’s experience with a billion dollar leaky condo disaster, the result of increasing energy efficiency without proven practice, one would think attention to proven practice and affordability over time would be the priority. If you are concerned, contact your MLA at https://www.leg.bc.ca/contact-us.

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