BC Energy Step Code for New Buildings

The City continues to lead the way in progressive initiatives to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. Building on the legacy of the Energy Efficient Buildings Initiative, on December 15, 2017, the City became the first municipality in British Columbia to require the use of the BC Energy Step Code for all new buildings.

What is the BC Energy Step Code?

The BC Energy Step Code provides an incremental approach to obtaining energy efficient buildings that go above the base requirements of the BC Building Code and a pathway to ensuring all buildings province-wide are Net-Zero Energy Ready by 2032.

  • “Net-Zero Energy Ready” means a building that is designed to be ultra-efficient, with the goal of being net-zero at some point in the future when it makes sense financially to add renewable energy sources.  

Why is it Important?

  • The BC Energy Step code outlines a single set of building standards that set the direction for future changes to the BC Building Code and improved improves the consistency of building regulations in the Province.
  • The BC Energy Step Code takes a performance-based approach, meaning it doesn’t specify how a building must be constructed; only that it is required to reach certain energy efficiency targets. This gives designers and builders the creative freedom to determine many aspects of their own building.

What Does This Mean?

  • Builders can work with a certified energy advisor to ensure building designs meet all applicable energy performance requirements. Energy advisors employ specialized software to analyze construction plans and determine how well a building performs once it is built.


How Does the Step Code Apply to New Construction?

The BC Building Code separately regulates what are known as “Part 9” and “Part 3” buildings, defined as follows:.

  • Part 9 Residential Buildings: buildings 3 storeys and under with a footprint of 600 square metres or less (e.g. houses and duplexes)
  • Part 3 Residential Buildings: buildings above 3 storeys or with a footprint of 600 square metres or over (e.g. apartments and large office buildings)

Through review of a provincial costing study on the Step Code, the BC Energy Step Code Council has identified each step as either a “Lower Step” or a “Higher Step” of the Step Code. From the BC Energy Step Code Best Practices Guide for Local Governments:

  • To achieve the Lower Steps, building and design professionals and trades can rely on conventional building designs with careful air-sealing practices, and incrementally incorporate some key elements in the design, building envelope, and equipment and systems.
  • To achieve the Upper Steps, builders and designers will need to adopt a more integrated approach to building design and may need to incorporate more substantial changes in building design, layout, framing techniques, system selection, and materials.


Summary of Requirements

This table provides a summary of the requirements. For a more in-depth look at the requirements, review our June 28, 2023 Staff Report to Council.

Building Type Description Requirements July 1, 2021 - October 31, 2023 Requirements as of November 1, 2023
Part 9 Residential Single family home, coach house, smaller townhouse Step 5 OR Step 3 with a low carbon energy system* Step 5 and Emissions Level 1 OR Step 4 and Emissions Level 3
Part 3 residential Larger multi-family and apartment projects Step 3 Step 3
Part 3 commercial Larger commercial, office, and retail buildings Step 2 Step 2
Public sector buildings Schools, libraries, colleges, recreation centres, hospitals, and care centres Step 1 Step 2

* a low carbon energy system means all mechanical systems in a Building that provide thermal conditioning and domestic hot water heating such that the modeled Greenhouse Gas Intensity for the floor area of conditioned space of the Building is no more than 3 kg CO2e/m2/year.

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