Updated January 23, 2023
In last week’s MMB we highlighted changes coming forward with the adoption of Step Code into the BCBC and spoke of mandating Step 3 as the minimum performance standard across the province. Despite having referenced and cited numerous sources, all of which pointed to the adoption of Step 3 in December of 2022, it was pointed out that this date was incorrect. In the January 11, 2023, Energy Step Code newsletter, it was noted that due to ministerial approval not having been secured, changes to the BCBC will now take place in December of 2023. It is item four of four in the newsletter. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this error may have caused, and we will monitor and update members as more information becomes available. Please note that the remarks regarding the uneven adoption of the Step Code across Metro Vancouver municipalities, and preceding the official BCBC transition, are most valid.
Byline: Ron Rapp, HAVAN CEO, first published in the HAVAN Monday Morning Briefing Members-only email, January 16, 2023
Connect with Ron on Twitter @havan_ceo
In December, adoption of the BC Energy Step Code (ESC) became mandatory across BC as the minimum performance standard on homes built under Part 9 of the BC Building Code. The Step Code up to now has been an “opt-in” for builders and municipalities, and many jurisdictions have incentivized and or implemented requirements that have exceeded the 2018 BCBC code minimums. This “optional’ period is now behind us and Step 3 of the 5-step ESC plan is now live and required, effectively driving construction spec and technique to achieve a 20% plus improvement in energy performance over the basic code house.
This should not be any kind of a shock to members as HAVAN has been involved in the backgrounding, information distribution, and education surrounding the ESC since before 2017, and with BC Housing, CHAB-BC, and many others, we have provided extensive education and training resources for members. There has, however, been much confusion and uncertainty embodied in the rollout of the ESC which is following the Provincial schedule leading to Step 5 Net Zero Ready by 2030 in keeping with the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030. The confusion has stemmed from many local jurisdictions charging ahead and advancing and or enhancing provincial requirements to establish goals associated with local Climate Action Plans.
This has resulted in an uneven application of the ESC across the spectrum of Metro municipalities ranging from not participating at all (per the option) to asking for Step 4 or 5 standards now. Regardless of what has prevailed to date, the base requirement is now Step 3 across the board as the minimum threshold. We are hoping that all members have taken the time for, and advantage of, the numerous education and training resources that have been made available, and still are available, through HAVAN’s online eLearn, and in-class and online courses, BC Housing, and CHBA-BC.
It should be noted that since the end of September 2022 BC Housing will require licensed builders to undertake mandatory Step Code training as a condition of their Builder License renewal, and will require a total of not less than 20 CPD points to be acquired over 24 months covering 8 learning modules. Please follow the embedded links to directly refresh and or acquaint yourselves with the ESC program and the licensing requirements as these are all “live” now and can affect the renewal of your builder’s license and ability to operate.
This process is not static and will continue to evolve in real-time as real-life experiences provide a feedback loop on what is working and issues that need to be adjusted or amended in the application of the new criteria to the infinite variety of building types and sizes that our sector produces. In addition, the regulations for Low Carbon and Green House Gas Intensity to be regulated by municipalities will come into effect by July 2023. The link embedded here speaks to a bulletin offered by the District of Saanich but provides a salient and focused overview.
Looking ahead, the next part of the sequence of regulation leading to Step 5 and Net Zero Ready will be the move to meet Steps 4 and then 5 of the ESC. The provincial schedule is currently pointing to 2026 for Step 4 and 2030 to achieve Step 5. The actions, materials, and techniques required to achieve the performance targets of Steps 1-3 have been seen to be relatively straightforward and focus on enhanced air and vapour barrier practices to reduce air change rates, enhance insulation efforts, and mitigate thermal transfer among other reasonably easy to achieve actions. Reaching the specified targets becomes an exercise in increased attention to details that can compromise air leakage if not properly attended to by all trades in the sequence.
These newly mandated requirements will require a new process to achieve the higher performance homes we need to meet the climate challenge, and builders will be required to engage Certified Energy Advisors (CEA) to model the homes to support permit applications and the performance targets, including the requisite blower door tests required to verify performance in the field. It must be noted that involving the CEA and designer early on will increase the chances of successfully meeting the ESC targets, and being aware of, and acting on deficiencies identified by the CEA is crucial. It will also be extremely prudent to affect ‘blower door testing’ prior to applying drywall or finishes to identify any issues before they are covered up and become costly and time-consuming to address. Verifying air change rates to match or exceed the values that are modeled as part of the permit process will become a requirement for occupancy and testing at the end of the construction cycle with completion pending is not the time you want to find out things are not meeting the requirements.
Our association has many CEA members now and everyone is urged to ensure that all members of your consulting teams and field staff and trades are up to speed with the means by which to achieve the performance targets set in the ESC. This may require a higher degree of advanced planning and lead time to ensure a successful outcome, especially as we move into higher levels of the Step Code and adopt the idea of an Integrated Design Process (IDP) where designers, CEA’s, the builder, and the client work together, from the beginning of the project, to balance performance, costs, architectural goals, and lifestyle.
Our members need to understand and be familiar with the Step Code, it’s timing, implications on specifications, and targets in order to properly inform your customers on finding the best means of meeting their expectations and the performance targets identified in the ESC. The “science” of building a home has increased exponentially in the last 20 years and moving through the ESC toward 2030 will become increasingly complex. We are fortunate to have as members many builders who have taken a leadership role in adopting and applying these new standards and many generously share their experience and knowledge in various HAVAN educational initiatives offered at no cost, and we urge you to avail yourselves of those opportunities and the extensive learning resources offered to members on-going and or through our online eLearn archive.
Education resources from HAVAN can and will help to meet licensing requirements both for basic CPD points and specifically for ESC requirements, and involvement in the variety of HAVAN councils and or committees can further your opportunity to stay current, or even ahead of, a changing regulatory environment.
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