Ontario is taking a more responsible approach to energy efficiency and consumer protection in their Building Code, than the approach taken by the BC government.

For example, BC’s Step Code enables municipalities to fast-track energy efficiency undermining health and safety, in addition to layering on tens of thousands of dollars in housing costs.

In the past, fast-tracking energy efficiency has led to leaky condo, as well as toxic asbestos and urea formaldehyde insulation.

Now studies reveal higher radon levels in energy efficient homes without proper mitigation and ventilation. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is linked to leukemia and other diseases.

BC’s Step Code enables 160 municipalities to leap into 5 different levels of energy efficiency without the research and due diligence presently underway by the National Building Code. In doing so, BC has contravened their agreement to harmonize with the National Code.

Ontario has taken a more responsible approach. In a Journal of Commerce article, Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says:

“In Ontario, one Building Code is intended to provide uniform requirements and is enforced province wide. A foundational principle of Ontario’s Building Code, since 1975 when it was first released, is to have one Building Code that is enforced throughout the province. Before that, neighbouring municipalities having different requirements created many issues. Having one building code with requirements that everyone has to comply with, has helped to level the playing field for builders and consumers; the standardized approach also helps the fire safety, manufacturing, design and the enforcement sectors.”

“…One of the reasons for Ontario’s success is because it has taken a gradual approach. To make all new buildings net-zero while avoiding any unintended consequences requires significant learning and capacity-building in the sector, which takes time.”

Ontario recognizes consumer protection is the foundational purpose of the code, and all other goals, including energy efficiency, while important, must be secondary. They are harmonizing with the National Building Code to avoid potential unintended consequences, which the BC government has ignored.

Ontario says, “The commitment to harmonize with the National Construction Codes means that as long as the National Codes proceed towards ‘net-zero ready’ so too will the provincial codes over the next two code cycles: 2025 and 2030.”

VRBA has always taken the approach expressed by Ontario. Yet some municipalities in our region, without the necessary research and expertise, continue fast-tracking energy efficiency.

We are aware of BC Step Code’s high costs, but what remains to be seen are the potential unintended consequences.

BC would be wise to follow Ontario’s example, prioritize health and safety, and harmonize with the National Building Code.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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