Sep 01, 2019

BC Energy Step Code

What, why, how it works.

If you’re a builder or home-owner, terms like “energy efficient,” “net-zero”, or even “passive house,” have been impossible not to notice in the last decade. And, a lot of the trend towards energy efficient homes in BC has to do with the BC Energy Step Code.

It’s a slightly confusing name. Let’s sort it out.

The Step Code consists of a series of specific, measurable energy efficiency requirements (“steps,” hence the name) that builders can choose to follow and that communities can choose to adopt in their bylaws and build policies. Obviously a lot of the thinking here is tied to economic and environmental incentive, and the Step Code provides an incremental method for builders and communities to create energy efficient buildings now and into the future, particularly in a push to ensure that all buildings are net-zero energy ready by 2032.

STEP Logo Nav

The main positives to the Step Code are:

  • it is a single set of building standards that will shape the future of the BC Building Code and make BC building regulations more consistent
  • it is performance-based – so, the Step Code doesn’t determine how a building must be built, only that it must meet specific energy efficiency targets, allowing builders and designers to remain creative in how they do so
  • it is a single provincial standard for efficiency, replacing a patchwork of standards in BC that had been trying to accomplish the same thing, but weren’t unified. Local governments can now all adopt the Step Code to improve their communities, and builders/developers also know what measures they’re expected to meet.

So, the Step Code is basically a varying set of energy efficiency requirements, a set ofsteps, that builders and designers must meet to varying degrees, depending on the type of build. The type of build is divided into two categories: “Part 9” and “Part 3.”

Part 9: Is for residential builds, 3 stories or less with a maximum footprint of 600m2.So this is your standard house or duplex. Part 9 projects have to meet all five of the steps in the Step Code.

STEPCODE Steps Part9

Part 3: Includes builds over 3 stories, with a footprint of 600m2 or bigger. So this isyour multi-units, wood frame apartment buildings, concrete apartment buildings, orlarge scale commercial builds. These builds have to meet varying degrees of the Step Code depending on the building type and region of the province.

STEPCODE Steps Part3 Wood

The lowest part of the Step Code, Step 1, is basically the existing requirements of the BC Building Code regarding energy-efficiency – all new builds have to meet this, and they can essentially follow conventional building plans to do so.

But the upper steps, like what you’d probably see required for a new residential build in a high-end Vancouver neighbourhood, are more ambitious. Step 5 for example is basically the most energy-efficient home that can be build, so builders and designers have to incorporate different ideas and techniques in their design, layout, materials, systems and techniques to achieve it.

The Step Code also allows builders to use whatever energy sources they want in the build (natural gas, hydro, etc.) without any penalties for that decision, so builders and developers can meet the Step Code using all available fuel types.
Bc energy step code

So, if you’re building in BC, you’re going to have to be looking at the BC Step Code, and thinking about how to meet whatever level of it you’re required or planning to, depending on the project. Being up to date and well-informed on the Step Code is not only going to make you a more conscientious builder, but it will make you more desirable to clients, more versatile in your systems and approaches to efficiency and it will help streamline your projects with the local governments because you’ll already know the standards you have to meet instead of getting caught up in red tape.

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