BC Energy Step Code
Emissions Reduction in New Construction
The energy we use to heat, power and cool our homes and other buildings make up over half of Victoria’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions come from the use of the fossil fuel natural gas which is 17 times more polluting than electricity in British Columbia.
As part of the City’s commitment to climate action, Victoria is joining other local governments across the province with the adoption of the BC Energy Step Code and the upcoming Provincial carbon pollution standards to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
2022 Council Direction on the BC Energy Step Code and Carbon Pollution Standards
The City of Victoria, the District of Saanich and the District of Central Saanich, supported by the Capital Regional District, conducted regional engagement with the building and development industry to set an adoption schedule for the BC Energy Step Code and cap greenhouse gas emissions using carbon pollution standards to meet climate targets while providing industry with predictability and consistency across the region.
What is required now?
As of January 1, 2020, all new residential and commercial construction in Victoria is required to be built 20% more energy efficient than current BC Building Code requirements. Building permits need to demonstrate compliance with the BC Energy Steps adopted in Victoria:
- Step 3 for Part 9 homes (single-family homes, duplexes and townhomes - excluding small homes/garden suites)
- Step 2 for Part 9 small homes/garden suites
- Step 3 for Part 3 mid-rise/wood-frame residential buildings
- Step 2 for Part 3 high-rise/concrete residential buildings and commercial buildings.
When and how are these requirements going to change?
The adoption of higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code will follow the Provincial adoption schedule. Carbon pollution standards will be implemented over several years, reaching the highest standards for most new buildings by July 2025.
What are the expected Provincial carbon pollution standards?
The proposed Provincial carbon pollution standards will set a maximum annual amount of greenhouse gas emissions that each building is allowed to emit. The amount for each building is based on the proposed occupancy and the size of the building. The metric that is used is kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square meter, per year (kg CO2e/m2/year). The specific maximums have yet to be finalized by the Province, however, the proposed limits for each building type can be found in Attachment A: BC carbon pollution standards [PDF - 200 KB] in this Council Report.
These metrics are expected to be finalized by the end of 2022.
Similar to the BC Energy Step Code, the carbon pollution standards have four levels each with a specific intent outlined below:
- Measure-only (requires measurement of a building’s emissions without reductions and is intended to build knowledge and capacity)
- Medium carbon (in most cases, will require electrification of either space heating or domestic hot water systems)
- Low carbon (in most cases, will require electrification of both space heating and domestic hot water systems)
- Zero-carbon ready (in most cases will require the full electrification of a building)
What is the BC Energy Step Code?
The BC Energy Step Code came into effect in 2018 and is an optional compliance path in the BC Building Code that local governments may use to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code.
Currently, the majority of construction in Victoria pursues energy efficiency by having buildings meet specific requirements in the BC Building Code for insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, lighting and other equipment and systems. It focuses on individual elements, rather than ensuring the building functions well as a system. The result can be a building that does not perform as well as intended.
The BC Energy Step Code is a performance-based approach to energy efficiency. Builders have more flexibility to comply with the energy-efficiency provisions of the provincial legislation. The new standard empowers builders to pursue innovative, creative, cost-effective solutions—and allows them to incorporate leading-edge technologies as they come available.
To comply with the BC Energy Step Code, builders will use energy software modeling and on-site testing to demonstrate that both their design and the constructed building meet the requirements of the standard. They may use any materials or construction methods to do so.
This approach is similar to that taken by many green-building certification programs, including Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Star for New Homes and R-2000 programs, Passive House certification, the Canadian Home Building Association’s Net Zero Home and Net Zero Ready Home programs.
Energy Modeling Guidelines
For guidance related to BC Energy Step Code energy modeling requirements, the City references the City of Vancouver's Energy Modelling Guidelines Version 1, March 2017, amended July 2018.
For applicants seeking information on how the BC Energy Step Code affects a specific project and/or project timelines, please see BC Energy Step Code: Information for Applicants - Land Use Applications and Building Permits. [PDF - 69 KB]