Late last year, the new 2018 British Columbia Building Code was getting released and along with it, Step 1 on the British Columbia’s Energy Step Code is coming into play. One of the major focuses of both the new codes is energy efficiency in residential homes. The Step Code sets a path to get homes to a point where they are “Net Zero Ready”, which has been carefully laid out by the Energy Step Code Council in BC. “Net Zero Ready” is a term that the Canadian Home Builder’s Association is using to describe a home that requires an amount of energy that can easily be achieved using solar panels or other types of renewable energy. It also indicates that the home is 80% more efficient than if your home was simply built to the current building code. The Canadian Homebuilder’s Association along with the Energy Step Code Council’s goal is that all new homes will be “Net Zero Ready” by 2032.
This would give homeowners the option to upgrade their homes to be a “Net Zero” home, by installing the renewable energy source of their choice, in any climate – even in the rainy Lower Mainland! The net zero ready home, represents a whole new level of home performance, with rigorous requirements that ensure outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health and durability.
Slated for January 2019, different municipalities throughout British Columbia will start the implementation of the Step Code at different levels. Especially so, this applies to New Homes, as the applications to renovations are not as straightforward due to pre-existing conditions. Many people are curious to know how the changes will affect their home renovations and new custom home. We’re here to tell you that there are so many great features you and your family will benefit from going forward, and you’ll be helping the environment at the same time.
Some of the major changes that we can expect to see will call for meeting a standard for the building’s air tightness, a boost in insulation, fewer thermal bridges (places where heat or cold can escape), ventilation upgrades, electrical energy usage, and material durability and performance within our homes. Although some of these features are a lot easier to achieve in a new home, it is still very possible to make your older home more energy efficient during your renovation. It is accomplished by testing your home and assessing its performance while consulting with a licensed energy advisor like Fortis BC to identify which solutions are applicable to your project, based on your scope, needs and budget.
The cost associated with building more energy efficient buildings is something that everyone (including the builders) is concerned about – but as the materials and methods advance and become common practice, the prices will normalize, installation time will decrease, and the overall cost will come down, just like with the code changes in the past. In the meantime, the number of rebates available to a homeowner has increased and will continue to do so for “Net Zero Energy” (NZE) homes.
Furthermore, the Efficiency BC website has created a great way to look up which rebates you home may be eligible for, which can be found here, making building and renovating for energy efficiency affordable. By meeting this standard, homeowners are awarded with significantly reduced operating costs, a quiet and more comfortable living atmosphere, health benefits of high indoor air quality, and the satisfaction of making a significant contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Municipalities are also working to make allowances for other challenges that the Step Code presents. An example would be square footage inside the home (no one wants to give up precious floor space, especially when you already don’t have enough!). Some municipalities are looking at excluding the wall thickness, or a portion of it, from you square footage calculations if you are using a certain insulation system to achieve better energy efficiency. Here are some of the features that you can expect when building for energy efficiency:
- Improved thermal comfort and fewer to no drafts, by insulating your home so that it has a higher effective R-value
- Improved health, by managing fresh air throughout the building and increasing air tightness, reducing dust particles and other allergens in the air
- A home that stays cleaner longer, as fewer dust particles can get into your home, fewer gather in all those “hard to reach” places
- Reduced noise infiltration, which happens when your home is well insulated and airtight.
- Lower energy bills and less energy being wasted, which is yet another side effect of a well-insulated and airtight home – it could also mean a smaller, less expensive furnace!
- A home that is more durable against weather and the environment.
- Helping to save the environment and be more sustainable.
The Government of Canada website’s Natural Resources section defines Net Zero Energy (NZE), or a Net Zero Home, as a property that produces at least as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. The idea of a home, or any building for that matter, with no carbon footprint was deemed by many to be an idealistic one that is simply not practical. But industry growth of one very key element is making the concept a reality – insulated concrete forms. ICF, which consists of pre-assembled panels, each one stacked, reinforced, and then filled with concrete, will dictate the ultimate success in achieving the sought after Net Zero goal.
The key to making it all possible is to find the right people to help you check all the right boxes, both with your municipality’s “City Hall” and at home. With all the new requirements, it’s not a bad idea to consult with someone who knows what steps to take and in which order. That way you have the peace of mind, knowing that the plans for your renovation or new home is cohesive with any changes in the British Columbia Building Code as well as the level of energy efficiency that you want to achieve.