Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria councils are fast-tracking energy efficiency in new homes via the BC govt’s Step Code without fully appreciating the costs and risks to residents. On the other hand, Langford is wisely disregarding the Step Code and is waiting for the National Building Code Committee’s proper diligence on more energy efficient housing to avoid unintended consequences like leaky condo. Langford supports the Built Green Canada program which has education certification.

The problems with Step Code are many:

  1. Step Code fast-tracks high levels of energy efficiency without certified education, affordability or proven practice as required by programs like Built Green.
  2. Step Code does not effectively address climate change. There is a reduction of only 1 or 2 air changes per hour (GHGs) in new homes. Renovation of older homes through a reno tax credit saves up to 40 air changes.
  3. Step Code violates the agreement to harmonize BC’s building code with Canada’s National Code. Diligence is ignored, undermining consumer protection. For example, a BC scientist has discovered radon gas may be prevalent in North Shore municipalities, and yet these municipalities have already started on Tier 3 of the Step Code without this knowledge. Municipalities are not qualified to invoke code standards outside of the National Building Code process. Now it has been discovered Duncan and Jordan River are also high risk. Municipalities have no idea re: their radon risk and very energy efficient homes can draw in radon if venting is not provided. If you read this article, you will know more than the elected officials/councils adding risk to their residents.
  4. The BC govt’s Step Code estimates are too low. They claim a Tier 5 (Passive Home) costs only $17,450 more to build. Our survey of Built Green/Passive Home builders reveals costs of at least $55,000 to $110,000. In this market, bet on the high side. In fact, a recent study by NRCan reveals BC’s Step Code is a flawed program with different costs in communities.
  5. Step Code enforcement is a big responsibility for municipal taxpayers. The Municipal Insurance Association says “Building bylaws are one of local governments’ greatest exposures to liability risks.” The City of Delta discovered this when ordered by a judge to pay $3 million in a leaky condo lawsuit in 2001.
  6. Victoria and Saanich have some of the slowest and most expensive building processes in the CRD. Step Code is certain to make it worse.

Fast-tracking energy efficiency is both irresponsible and costly. Step Code is the wrong way to achieve more energy efficiency.

Instead, support Built Green and National Code diligence, and launch a reno tax credit for older homes. Show this column to your city councilors before they take a misstep.

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This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist newspaper.