New building code regulations often fly under the radar in discussions about high housing prices.

An example is the Step Code, an energy efficiency regulation fast-tracked by the BC govt without a review by the National Building Code committee – despite the Canada/BC harmonization agreement.

Step Code implies energy efficiency is achieved in steps, when in fact, municipalities may leap into any Tier from 1 to 5.

Our cost estimate shows Tier 3 adds $28,000 to a new home, not including overhead. Higher Step Code levels can double and even triple this amount.

As of January 1, 2021, Saanich, Oak Bay, Victoria, Central Saanich and North Saanich require Tier 3, some having bypassed Tier 2.

Langford, View Royal, Metchosin and several other municipalities are wisely waiting for National Code diligence expected to be completed by year-end.

Step Code offers a reduction of one or two air changes per hour in a new home while most older homes experience 10 to 20 air changes. Retrofits are far more effective reducing GHG’s.

Besides cost, another issue is unintended consequences such as radon gas found in homes across Canada.

The National Code committee says: “Improvements in the effectiveness of the air barrier may create an increased risk of negative pressure” creating “increased risk related to soil gas ingress.”

High levels of radon require mitigation, especially in air-tight homes lacking adequate ventilation. Alarmingly, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, an illness increasing in non-smokers.

The BC govt’s radon map is inaccurate because radon can be site specific, as discovered in Duncan and Salt Spring Island. A leading BC radon scientist says there has been inadequate radon testing in our region.

Urea formaldehyde, asbestos insulation, and leaky condo syndrome are past examples of govt energy efficiency initiatives lacking due diligence and having costly unintended consequences.

The primary purpose of a building code is health and safety, as well as consumer protection, which should include housing affordability.

Step Code’s early adoption by the BC govt and some municipalities, prior to National Code diligence, undermines these principles.

For more on the BC Step Code visit our blog.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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