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Net-zero code mandated in three B.C. cities

March 12, 2021

Three of the most expensive housing markets in Canada will mandate net-zero level building codes starting July 2021 for new housing, but a major home builder says the top-level standard is too pricey for most Canadian consumers.
Net-zero refers to new homes that generate more power than they use, creating a net-zero effect on greenhouse gas emissions. In British Columbia, this relates to the final level, Step 5, of the BC Energy Step Code (Step Code), introduced in 2017.
The Step Code is voluntary among B.C. municipalities and most of those that have joined in are currently at Step 2 or 3. The concept is that, by 2032, all will be at Step 5, which is roughly equivalent to Passive House, the world’s most rigid energy-saving standard.
But West Vancouver, where the average detached house sells for more than $2.9 million, and neighbouring North Vancouver District and the City of North Vancouver—among the regions where Canada’s most expensive homes are also located—will be the first to jump to the Step 5 level as of July 1, 2021.
A 2019 cost study by HAVAN (Homebuilders Association Vancouver) found that achieving the Step 5 designation would add $48,000 to the price of a typical new house. Builders in B.C. say a large luxury home would require from $70,000 to $110,000 to achieve the net-zero status.
Larry Clay, president of Clay Construction Ltd. of Langley, who is the in-coming president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, said the high costs may work in wealthier cities, but would make it impossible for most builders to build and sell market houses to Step 5 standard.
Canada’s new national building code, expected to be released in 2025, will also require much higher standards of energy efficiency to battle climate change.
Clay said builders can create homes to the net-zero standard, but the industry would require incentives—from government and perhaps the mortgage industry—to make it possible.
“Home builders can do it, but we can’t do it alone,” Clay said.



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