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What You Need To Know About BC Step Code

  • The term “Step Code” is deceptive – it gives the impression increased energy efficiency will be achieved in steps. In fact, municipalities may choose any Tier from 1 to 5, so in reality the Step Code is a Leap Code. It enables municipalities to leap into very high levels of energy efficiency without certified education potentially resulting in leaky condo syndrome, and regardless of affordability.



  • Ask your municipality to partner with Built Green offering affordability and certified education, as Edmonton has done. 


  • The Step Code has little impact on GHG reduction – only 1 or 2 air changes per hour while significantly boosting costs in already energy efficient new homes. VRBA builders certified by Built Green are now building affordable homes for young families with 3 air changes per hour.


  • The BC govt’s Step Code estimates are significantly lower than our builders’ estimates. eg govt estimate of $17,450 for Tier 5 (Passive Home/Net Zero) is only 1/3 to 1/5 the real cost according to our survey of experienced builders – up to $110,000



  •  Renovations of older homes – the majority of our housing stock – can save 10 – 40 air changes, as well as address seismic & asbestos issues. The Step Code is greenwashing by the BC government to appear to be environment friendly. There is far greater reduction of  GHG’s achieved renovating older homes – the vast majority of the housing stock.


  • BC’s Step Code undermines education while increasing energy efficiency. Unlike Built Green, there is no certified training for the Step Code which puts consumers at risk. The BC govt says the Step Code replaces the “patchwork of green building standards.” In fact that “patchwork” includes Built Green, Leed and Passive Home – all with certified education programs offering enhanced protection for consumers. So the province is undermining certified education programs  while raising energy efficiency. Municipalities like Saanich & Victoria supporting the Step Code will reduce protection for their residents while increasing their own municipal liability.  


  • The Step Code circumvents the National Building Code and undermines a standard by creating multiple standards for energy efficiency, much of it unproven in large numbers. The National Building Code Committee is reviewing energy efficiency for homes. It would be wise for that diligence to be completed rather than have municipalities impose their own standard, which they are not qualified to do. 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.   


  • The Step Code costs may actually prevent young families purchasing energy efficient new homes and force them to buy older homes with 10 to 40 air changes per hour. 


  • A Saanich case study reveals a difference of $400,000+ between the Housing Ministry estimate for Tier 5 (Passive Home) and a recent Passive Home built in the real world of construction. Even taking into account some differences in sq ft and product, the cost gap would be at least $260,000. Nowhere near the $17,442 added cost claimed by the government. Yet the Housing Ministry continues to use their costing report in Step Code presentations to elected officials, industry and the public. 


  • GHG reduction is best addressed via a renovation tax credit, which can also address seismic issues and asbestos mitigation. The BC govt received more than $2 billion in Property Transfer Tax revenue from housing in 2016 and much can be done with only a small percentage. 


  • It will take decades to break even on energy savings after investing $60,000 in additional costs for Tier 5 of the Step Code.


  • BC govt’s own report says 46% of BC’s licensed builders do not have the expertise to build at the higher tier levels. Built Green has an education certification program. Step Code has no education certification program.


  • Technology is changing rapidly and the Step Code may well become expensive obsolescence. Homebuyers should have the option of investing in solar (eg) Tesla roof shingles. In the past 2 years, a 1977 Victoria condo cut their hydro bill by $5,300 or 10% of solar panel installation cost. If your home has unlimited sustainable energy from the sun, does it matter if your home has 3 air changes or 1? It doesn’t.


  • Climate change is best addressed by upgrading tens of thousands of older homes with 10 to 40 air changes per hour, not adding costs to new, affordable energy efficient homes.    


  • In Victoria $90 million on homebuyers’ mortgages (much more amortized over 25 years) will save about 4,500 air changes per hour for 3,000 new homes annually. That same $90 million or just 5% of the Property Transfer Tax revenue will save 45,000 air changes annually by retrofitting 3,000 older homes. Step Code is a classic case of diminishing returns.


  • The Step Code is a high risk placebo offering negligible benefit while enabling the province to claim “green leadership” without having to spend money to create real benefit. 
  • For more info, contact the Victoria Residential Builders Association –

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