Local Response to Climate Change in the Housing Industry
Over the years the City of Penticton and the RDOS alongside municipalities across the country have created Climate Action Plans to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Even with advanced modelling and planning from professional scientists, analysts, and consultants over the years I don’t think anyone thought we’d need to react this quickly to our changing climate. Unfortunately, when we thought we had 12 years to make dramatic changes we now see that we only had 2-3 years and we are now caught scrambling to secure the future.
We are working now to get a clearer snapshot of where we are regarding the amount of carbon the average Pentictonite is releasing into the atmosphere. According to the newly published Community Climate Action Plan produced for the City of Penticton, our city dumps 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere annually - the main offenders? Unfortunately, our buildings and vehicles are the heaviest polluters. We need to reduce that number to 0 tonnes annually, (a.k.a Net Zero) in the next 30 years to meet the Government of Canada commitment to the United Nations to avoid absolute and irrevocable catastrophe. Hard to believe that what we’ve experienced in the last few years is just the beginning and things like fires, floods, and droughts are only going to get worse as the years drag on.
Building for the Future with BC Building Energy Step Code
The BC Building Energy Step Code is essentially a set of performance targets that each new residential building must meet once it’s constructed. The lower steps of the model indicate a less
performative house, and the higher you climb the more efficient your home will be.
What indicates the homes’ performance? Essentially, the less fossil fuel energy your home uses to function, the higher the performance. This includes your heating & cooling (HVAC) systems, the air-tightness of your wall assemblies (exterior siding, vapour & air barriers, insulation, drywall, etc) and the use of renewable electrical power draws using things like lighting and appliances.
If you are building a new home, energy efficiency is something that can be planned in the design process, an example is using 2x6 studs in the walls for more insulation space rather than the traditional 2x4 stud frame walls. Some other design strategies include the precise placement of windows and glass doors, North/South orientation, solar/wind energy catchment, and space planning for high efficiency appliances like on-demand hot water systems and heat pumps.
Heat pumps offer both heating & cooling for the home and some create up to 97% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to their high-efficiency natural gas counterparts. On-demand hot water systems instantly warm the water before it enters your tap, opposed to hot water tanks that require significantly more energy to keep water within the tank hot at all times. Traditionally the hot water tanks and furnace systems of our homes take up a considerable amount of floor space that can now be used by your family more efficiently.
All new residential builds will need to be net zero ready by 2032, the BC Building Energy Step Code helps gradually move the industry in that direction. Right now the minimum step required by both the City of Penticton and the RDOS is Step 3. Once your designer has completed your plans, a registered Energy Advisor will analyze the plans to ensure it meets the standardized requirements. They will take into consideration things like material insulation value and window (glazing) usage to determine the performance of the plan in their Pre-Construction Report.
Once the building is at a certain stage of construction the Energy Advisor will attend the construction site and run some diagnostic tests, and before occupancy another diagnostic will be run to make the final performance determination of the building. By testing and analyzing throughout the project your builder can more easily make necessary adjustments if things need to be addressed before the project is complete.
To incentivize homeowners who are either renovating or building new, the Province of BC and the Government of Canada have created the Clean BC Better Homes website that has very useful information about current energy efficient products; it also has a handy search tool for finding rebates for your next project. For example, replacing some “conventional” furnaces with a new heat pump can see a $6,000 rebate in some instances. To see what rebates are offered in our area check out www.betterhomesbc.ca