Intengine Search

The Path To Net Zero-Ready Buildings


Released in a recent National Energy Board of Canada report, British Columbia’s commercial and residential buildings in 2015 released a staggering 7.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, representing 12% of the total GHG emissions produced in the province. However, the Province of BC is committed to fostering sustainable building practices and reducing the environmental impact imposed by energy-wasting buildings. As a result, the January 2018 revision to the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC) mandates higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings.

The enhanced energy efficiency provisions more closely align the BCBC with the Canadian National Building Code (NBC) and with energy performance codes and standards for North America. These provisions support federal government objectives requiring Net Zero-ready buildings in the NBC by 2030.

Energy efficiency was first addressed in the 2008 revision to the BCBC and offered designers and builders two approaches to achieve building energy compliance. One approach was prescriptive-based; the other was performance-based. 

To date, most builders follow the prescriptive path—namely, installing insulation, furnaces, windows, water heaters, lighting, and so forth, where each component meets certain energy performance standards. This path, though simple enough to implement, frequently results in buildings costing more, yet failing to perform as intended. 

The performance-based approach allows designers and builders the freedom to employ the latest technologies in innovative ways to ensure the building, when viewed as a whole, meets energy efficiency performance targets. This approach does not dictate how to construct a building to do so, and it can result in substantial cost-savings by incorporating suitable designs and materials only where needed. 

The latest version of the BCBC incorporates the BC Energy Step Code, a voluntary standard that became effective in April 2017. The Step Code consolidates various green building standards into a province-wide stepped and consistent approach to ensure buildings are Net Zero ready by 2032. 

Specifically, the Step Code introduces measurable, performance-based energy efficiency requirements to guide designers and builders who choose to implement these higher standards. Municipalities can adopt the Step Code into their bylaws to guide local building requirements.

The BC Energy Step Code supports the performance-based approach to compliance. This path requires Licensed Energy Advisors who are trained in building energy engineering to employ specialized modeling software during building design and construction phases. 


The City of Vancouver is a global leader in its efforts to incorporate higher building energy efficiency standards into its local building bylaws. Back in 2011, the City unveiled the Greenest City Action Plan, stating its vision to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. Its goals: 
•    Achieve “carbon neutral” status for all new buildings
•    Reduce new home energy consumption by 33%
•    Cut GHG emissions from existing buildings by 20% from 2007 levels. 

These goals compel designers and builders to shift to performance-based codes such as the BC Energy Step Code rather than follow the prescriptive path. 

For its proactive approach to implementing urban sustainability initiatives, the City enjoys widespread national and international recognition, including:
•    2017 Arcadis Design and Consultancy’s Sustainable Cities Mobility Index—3rd in North America, 28th globally
•    2015 Mercer Quality of Living Survey—1st in North America, 5th globally
•    2014 Time Magazine—Healthiest City in the World
•    2013 World Green Building Council—Global Government Leadership Award for Best Overall Green Building Policy.


The BC Energy Step Code approach supports the goals of many green-building certification programs presently available:
•    Passive House Institute  
•    Canada’s ENERGY STAR for New Homes, EnerGuide, and R-2000 trademarked programs
•    CHBA’s Net Zero Home and Net Zero Ready Home trademarked programs.

Many large-scale property owners and managers (such as Bentall Kennedy, Oxford Properties, Colliers International, and others) involved in commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential sectors are looking to sustainably upgrade their buildings to maintain property values, reduce operating costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Such properties are undergoing certification programs like:
•    The Canada Green Building Council’s LEED for existing buildings
•    Building Owners and Managers Association’s Building Environmental Standards (BESt) Program.

The trends are encouraging—advanced building design and construction practices incorporating the latest technologies are two essential factors necessary to reduce building GHG emissions. The third critical factor—ensuring building codes foster ongoing development and implementation of these elements—is progressing in lockstep to achieve long-term sustainability objectives.


Construction, Development & Real Estate, Energy, Environment & Climate