Legal Framework of Green Buildings in BC

The legal framework surrounding green buildings in BC is an evolving and dynamic field, reflective of the province’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable development. This article delves into the key regulations and policies shaping the green building landscape in British Columbia.

Since January 1, 2022, BC has mandated that new low-rise residential buildings must use zero emissions equipment for heating and have additional roof insulation.

A zero emissions building is defined as one that is highly energy efficient and uses only renewable energy. BC is ambitiously planning to transition to zero emissions buildings in all new construction by 2030, setting progressive limits on emissions and energy use in new buildings and planning to reduce these limits over time​​.

In line with these goals, BC is accepting enquiries and applications for relaxations and exclusions under the CHBA Net Zero Home Label. This process, which started on February 28, 2023, requires applicant teams to include a person with either a Qualified Net Zero Builder accreditation or a Certified Passive House Consultant/Designer accreditation​​.

Green Buildings in BC

Retrofitting Existing Homes

In an effort to meet the Climate Emergency Action Plan targets, BC is also focusing on retrofitting existing homes to reduce emissions to zero before 2050. This encompasses a broad range of structures, including residential, commercial, and multifamily buildings​​.

British Columbia is actively promoting the construction of high-performance buildings that meet Passive House and Net Zero Energy certified standards. To incentivize this, zero emissions buildings can be eligible for a 5% increase in floor space ratio, a measure that can significantly benefit developers​​​​.

For multi-family buildings, depending on their size, there are various utility programs, incentives, and rebates available. This is part of a larger strategy to reduce carbon pollution from large commercial and multi-family buildings​​​​.

The Zero Emissions Buildings Plan

The Zero Emissions Buildings Plan is a flexible, phased approach to combat and reduce carbon pollution in Vancouver. It has specific targets and actions to achieve zero emissions in all new buildings by 2030 but does not focus on retro-fitting existing buildings. The plan also allows restaurants to continue cooking with natural gas, indicating a balanced approach towards different industry needs​​.

The plan aims to improve comfort and health in buildings by managing temperature and fresh air. It also focuses on reducing noise through better insulation and airtightness. These measures are expected to lead to reduced energy bills and more durable buildings​​.

The Zero Emissions Buildings Plan is coordinated with the province-wide Energy Step Code, creating a new level of consistency and predictability across local governments. It provides clear timelines for future updates to help businesses invest in and develop products and skills to meet upcoming requirements​​.

Embodied Carbon Requirements

As of October 1, 2023, the implementation of the embodied carbon requirements in the Vancouver Building By-Law applies to all new Part 3 buildings. This requires a completed embodied carbon design report and supporting documents at the time of a full construction building permit application.

Embodied carbon emissions, which occur throughout the lifecycle of a building, have a target reduction of 40% by 2030, aligning with British Columbia’s declaration of a climate emergency​​​​.

BC’s policies mandate energy and emissions performance limits, embodied carbon limits, and enhanced commissioning for all new rezoning projects. They also offer relaxation of some regulations for projects designed for Passive House or Zero Energy certification, and an increase of up to 5% in permitted floor area in certain areas​​.

Green Buildings in BC

Effective May 1, 2023, the BC Building Code requires 20% better energy efficiency for most new buildings throughout the province.

The Zero Carbon Step Code, a voluntary provincial standard, supports this by providing tools for local governments to encourage or require lower emissions in new buildings. These changes align with the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 and aim for all new buildings to be zero carbon by 2030 and net-zero energy ready by 2032​​​​.

BC’s legal framework for green buildings reflects a proactive and multifaceted approach to environmental sustainability. It incorporates various regulations and incentives to promote the construction of energy-efficient, low-emission buildings while also focusing on retrofitting existing structures.

This framework is a testament to BC’s commitment to a greener, more sustainable future, balancing environmental objectives with practical considerations for different stakeholders.

If you have questions about green buildings in BC, reach out to us. We can connect you with a Realtor.

Author: James M. Gould, BC Realtor

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