New BC Energy Step Code proves costly

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The new building code amendment will add up to 80,000 to the cost of a new single-family home

Andrew Duffy
Western Investor

The new B.C. Energy Step Code will add up to $80,000 to the cost of a new single-family house while having a minimal effect on energy efficiency, according to the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA).

The Step Code is an amendment to the B.C. Building Code announced by the former Liberal government this April.

Local governments around B.C. are expected to implement the energy-saving changes. The Step Code is slated to come into force starting December 1, 2017.

The new code is designed to reduce the number of air changes – the number of times a home needs to be heated per hour. Under the current B.C. Building Code, a typical new house may average three to four air changes per hour.

But Casey Edge, executive director of the VRBA, said because the Step Code targets only new builds, which are already being built to high energy efficiency standards, there’s a lot of added cost without a lot of benefit.

“For an additional $26,000 [on the cost of building an average Victoria house] you get to knock off half an air change; for an additional $58,000 you can knock off two air changes compared to what we can do now,” he said.

Edge said the additional cost is likely to be wrapped into a mortgage and therefore will end up costing new homebuyers a lot more over the years. “In some cases they’ll never get their money back,” he said.

Edge said implementation of the new code is also a problem. As initially proposed, the Step Code would allow each of the province’s 162 municipalities a choice of which tier of the code to adopt.

“This implementation creates confusion, multiple building practices, undermines a uniform code and deviates from B.C.’s agreement with Ottawa to harmonize with the National Building Code,” Edge said in a letter to the premier.

According to a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson, the BC NDP government is not ready to comment on the code because it is still stepping up to speed on the issue.

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