City of Richmond staff concerned about changes to BC Building Code

City of Richmond staff are concerned changes the BC Building Code could result in new homes being less energy efficient.

In 2018, Richmond adopted the BC Energy Step Code (ESC), a regulatory tool that aims to help the construction industry shift towards “high-performance” envelope and mechanical systems, to help reduce GHG emissions and ensure new residential buildings are more energy efficient, according to a city report.

Envelope performance requirements are tailored according to each of B.C.’s seven “climate zones.”

Since the ESC was adopted in 2018, all new single-detached houses and duplexes must comply with Step 1 of the code.

In a Step 1 house, air-tightness has been tested and energy performance evaluated using energy modelling tools.

Builders in Richmond have been successful at “meeting, and exceeding, the requirements of Step 1,” the staff report reads.

Step 2 and higher houses have a higher air-tightness requirement and higher energy efficiency.

However, in December 2019, the province introduced a new metric to the BC Building Code for assessing envelope performance for single-detached homes, townhouses and small apartment buildings.

The metric, known as “Percent Better,” would allow houses in Climate Zone 4 – where Richmond is – to achieve some steps under the ESC “with as little as one-quarter of the envelope improvements previously required,” according to the staff report.

The report also states the province adopted the December 2019 changes to the building code in response to complaints from homebuilders in the Interior and Kootenay regions that the ESC envelope requirements were “too stringent.”

The change applied to all zones.

City staff voiced their concerns about the 2019 changes to the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs, and to the Energy Step Code Council.

Furthermore, earlier this year, Vancouver city council said it would exclude the Percent Better metric from that city’s building bylaw.

“To date, provincial staff have not made a commitment to addressing the concerns expressed by local governments,” the report reads.

Staff are asking council to send a letter to the ministry, along with a copy of their report, asking the “problematic metric” either be removed entirely from the ESC, or from Climate Zone 4 only.

Council will vote on the motion at Monday’s general purposes committee meeting.

© Richmond News