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Step Code and Unintended Consequences

VRBA has outlined how BC’s upcoming Step Code (Dec 2017) undermines housing affordability and consumer protection by fast-tracking higher energy efficiency in new homes that are already energy efficient.  

The Step Code adds tens of thousands of dollars in Canada’s most expensive province, while providing minimal benefit – a reduction of 1 or 2 air changes per hour. For the same cost, 22 air changes can be saved renovating an older home, according to a CMHC study. Older homes are by far, the greater source of greenhouse gases.

The Step Code is a range of 5 different energy efficiency Tiers, beyond the National Building Code, administered by BC’s 160 municipalities. This erodes the very definition of a building standard. In addition, the regulation downloads the responsibility of the Building Code to municipalities, including any accompanying liability.

Municipalities are ill-equipped for the diligence required for establishing building standards. The Canadian Commission for Building and Fire Codes responsible for Canada’s National Building Code has not yet done reviews, diligence or cost/benefit analyses on these very high energy efficiency levels.

An important part of a national code review is establishing proven practice to avoid unintended consequences like leaky condo. In addition, there is a history of approving toxic insulation in support of greater energy efficiency including urea formaldehyde and asbestos vermiculite known as Zonolite, now a costly expense to remove for homeowners.

The Step Code deviates significantly from a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government to harmonize BC’s Code with the National Code.

The province has established a Step Code Council to lead the implementation. This is designed to deflect responsibility away from the province in the event of unintended consequences.

VRBA has declined to participate.

For the record, the BC government initiated and fast-tracked the Step Code without cost/benefit analysis, proven practice and National Code diligence.

The province must accept responsibility for any future unintended consequences to consumers.

Visit us at www.vrba.ca and www.careawards.ca. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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