The one-year anniversary of the BC Step Code’s introduction has come and gone this past April. For now, the code remains to be a resource for all 160 individual municipalities in BC to choose whether or not to implement to one degree or another. Its objective is to introduce the long-term goal of all new homes in BC to be net-zero ready homes by 2032. A net-zero homes means that a home’s total power production is close to or equivalent to the amount of power the homes consumes over the course of a year. BC municipalities were given permission to start enforcing the code as early as December 15th, 2017.
It is encouraging to see more and more of the governments support and attention spent on building greener homes and transitioning the industry to have less of a footprint on planet earth. While the motive of the step code is good, its execution and structure could use some improving. We got to chat with Casey Edge by phone, who is the Executive Director for the Victoria Residential Builders Association and well-versed expert in the building industry as it relates to energy efficiency. He summarized our interview saying, “the issue isn’t new homes!”– the issue is old homes sweating off their heat that are not built to the same basic standards of efficiency that exists today.
According to the BC Step Code, new homes that are net-zero ready will be 1%-3% (or $17,000) more expensive to build than a regular home. This is an understatement as builders in Victoria claim more realistic numbers “$55k-$110k, or an average of $80k”, says Casey. The step codes estimations, at least for the Victoria (and likely Vancouver) market, are severely light. Casey shares in our opinion that the smarter approach for builders and their clients is to invest in solar panels that cost a fraction of the price. Keep in mind, that $80k is just for a net-zero ready home, this is not yet a net-zero home without a way of produce its own power.
When included in the original design of a new home, solar can be extremely affordable and wildly productive for the home owner’s energy production. The designer can consider things like electrical supply, orientation of the home, and the location of roof penetrations to ensure the most south facing square footage. This traditionally cost a fraction of the average net-zero ready home, is far better for the environment, and will much quicker achieve what the step code has tried to accomplish. As if that wasn’t good enough, the payback period for the initial investment is under 15 years in most case scenario’s. For an older home, retrofitting a roof with solar is far less expensive than updating the walls and windows and attic of a house to insulate the heat.
In summary, the BC Step Code is a genuine attempt to make an impact on the environment that could be far better executed by a Home Renovation Grant that would apply to both old and new homes to incentivise energy efficiency and power production. Casey feels the reason the government did not propose this is because it would shift the cost from the homeowner spending an extra $80k on building a passive home to the government who incurs the cost of the awarded grants.
Power Up Solar is exciting about the VRBA’s awareness and support for smarter power production and more efficient homes. The next steps for us include approaching builders and being part of the
Edge, C., VRBA. (n.d.). The BC Step Code and Solar. Phone Interview, Case Edge. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
BC Energy Step Code. (2017). Online Government Document, 1-51. Retrieved May 17, 2018, from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/construction-industry/building-codes-and-standards/guides/bcenergystepcode_guide_v1.pdf.
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