The Regional District of Central Kootenay voted at its Nov. 19 meeting to adopt Step 1 of the BC Energy Step Code as of Dec. 31.
This means that for all new residential buildings the builder must hire a certified energy advisor to confirm the design meets the energy requirements of the current building code. Without that certification a building permit will not be issued.
The BC Energy Step Code is a series of five steps, each with increasingly advanced energy saving standards.
Step 1 means the status quo, with certification by an energy advisor, as described above.
Step 2 means increasing energy efficiency above the status quo by 10 per cent, Step 3 by 20 per cent, and Step 4 by 40 per cent. The fifth step is a net-zero building that produces as much energy as it uses.
Standards in the code are measured by how much energy is being lost from the building envelope, not on the source of heat or the building materials used.
The province will require that all new residential buildings be built to Step 3 by 2022 and Step 5 by 2032, but for the time being the province has made it voluntary for local governments to adopt the Step Code according to their own schedules leading up to those dates.
Some, including the City of Nelson, have incorporated it into their building bylaws, and with the Nov. 19 decision the RDCK has done the same.
In September, Nelson council voted to incorporate Step 3 into its building bylaw on Dec. 30, partly on the grounds that most builders in the city were already building to that level voluntarily.
Six members of the RDCK board voted against adopting the Step Code.
In an email to the Nelson Star, RDCK board chair Aimee Watson said the objections included a perceived shortage of energy advisors, the limited availability of materials for energy efficient technologies, a rural building sector that is not up to speed on the Step Code, and a potentially increased building cost due to the Step Code.
Some board members thought priority should go to retrofitting existing aging housing instead, expanding the existing Regional Energy Efficiency Program (REEP).
On the other hand, some members thought that adopting the Step Code early would create a greater supply of energy advisors and would build capacity because of demand.
No one took issue with the merits of the Step Code but noted that capacity differed across the region, Watson wrote.
In a presentation to the board in favour of adopting Step 1, RDCK planner Paul Faulkner said that not adopting Step 1 in December 2020 “will inhibit the ability of builders and building officials to suitably prepare for the jump to Step 3 in 2022. This lack of preparedness may increase the likelihood of failure to achieve compliance to Step 3 for builders unfamiliar with the requirements, processes, and techniques to achieve Step 3.”
He argued that this would result in increased costs to residents in the long run.
In a presentation to the board in October, energy inspector Gerry Sawkins and Nelson architect Lukas Armstrong provided statistics to show that the cost of building to the Step Code adds about $7,000 to the cost of a new building, an amount that will be recouped in seven years because of energy cost savings.