Canada’s national model building codes delayed until December 2021

Despite delay, advocates can pave the way for building energy code adoption
Kevin Lockhart

Kevin Lockhart

Efficient Buildings Lead

September 1, 2020

Blog | News

  • Canada’s national model building codes are delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19.
  • Provinces and territories can still prepare for adoption.
  • Now is the time to act! Building energy code advocates can pave the way for adoption through a mix of advocacy, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. 

Canada’s national model building codes can now be counted among the public processes across Canada that continue to be affected by COVID-19. Despite the ongoing pandemic, addressing public review comments for the proposed changes (originally scheduled to be held over five days of face-to-face meetings this past May) successfully continued virtually. Although there are still more public review comments to be reviewed this coming September, it has been reported that the 2020 national model codes (expected to be published in the fall of 2020) have been delayed and will be published in December 2021.

The National Research Council is the organization that publishes the national model codes. It has been reported that the national model codes will be published concurrently as instructed by the Provincial/Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes (PTPACC), the committee made up of senior representatives appointed by provincial and territorial deputy ministers that provide policy advice to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC). Critically, this includes the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) and National Building Code (NBC).

Not a reason to stall adoption

This delay affects the publication date of Canada’s first national tiered codes. However, Provinces and territories will be provided access to an embargoed copy of each model code as soon as they are available. This will allow each province/territory to begin their adoption process as soon as possible and implementation of the 2020 NECB and NBC, as well as prepare an effective compliance regime.

Tiered codes, an incremental approach to achieving more energy efficient buildings through a progressive series of performance-based steps that start with a familiar base building code, will make provincial/territorial adoption easier as each jurisdiction can adopt a performance tier that meets their provinces energy efficiency objectives.

Tiered codes also present policymakers with an opportunity to formulate policies and incentives that move the leading edge of the market towards increasingly better building energy performance and facilitate the transition to net zero energy ready (NZEr) buildings. Tiered codes also offer a building energy code roadmap that sends a clear signal to industry that high-performance buildings are to be the norm in the future and provides the sector the time needed to adjust business processes accordingly. Supply chains, for example, can prepare to make high-performance products and technologies accessible and widely available; and trades and professionals can develop the knowledge and skills required to effectively construct NZEr buildings.

While the model codes will not be available to the public until December 2021, there is no reason for the buildings sector to expect a delay in their adoption. Provinces and territories can continue to prepare to adopt and enforce the national model codes, with or without amendments.

Here is what you can do now!

Adoption and implementation of the model codes is a voluntary activity by the provinces/territories, and, in the past, codes adoption has ranged widely between different jurisdictions. However, in 2020, provinces/territories prepared to begin harmonizing construction codes under the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table (RCT). While the RCT does not require provinces and territories to adopt the latest model codes, it does require them to harmonize their construction codes by 2025, and to avoid creating new ones thereby providing suppliers and builders with more consistent rules across Canada. Provincial/territorial adoption is a multi-year process as Building and Fire Safety Officials in each province must review and, if necessary, amend national model codes to suit their unique jurisdictional needs. In the meantime, as outlined in our previous work, building sector advocates can take action today in ways that are both safe and responsible as the pandemic continues.

Building energy code advocates can pave the way for provincial/territorial adoption through a mix of advocacy, capacity building, and knowledge sharing. This includes:

  • Encouraging provincial/territorial leaders to adopt the national model codes, and to adopt an ambitious performance tier.
  • Increase their jurisdiction’s network of energy advisors, building officials, trades and professions as well as building sector associations to better prepare for the adoption, implementation and enforcement of advanced building energy codes.
  • Establish a network of building performance advocates that can act as a provincial/territorial model code adoption stakeholder council to facilitate their jurisdictions transition to tiered codes.
  • Encourage all levels of government to consider building codes as a tool for economic recovery and provide direct incentives to homeowners and building owners to encourage higher levels of energy efficiency in new homes and buildings.
  • Support for training organizations like those found in our database of online training opportunities.

Adoption is one thing, but compliance quite another

In addition to these measures that lay the groundwork for better performing buildings, consideration must be given to energy code compliance. The energy savings and climate reductions resulting from increasingly stringent building energy codes can only be realized when the building energy code is enforced. High levels of building energy code compliance are an effective means to achieving the federal and provincial government’s efficiency and emissions reductions goals.

As noted in in our Tiered Energy Code Compliance report, government at all levels can prepare for enhanced enforcement measures through the development of national compliance guidelines, increasing training and awareness, and preparing to provide access to compliance subject matter experts that will increase confidence in the benefits of tiered energy codes.

Building energy codes matter

Building energy codes impact a significant proportion of energy use in buildings and, as such, they are the quickest and cleanest way to improve energy efficiency in new buildings and a key contributor in Canada’s transition to a low-carbon future. Building energy codes are also an effective means to develop high-value local jobs, contribute to social equity through better housing, and support climate action.

Canada’s NZEr model codes are also an ideal vehicle by which government can deliver immediate benefits and prepare long-term clean-economy growth. They can drive energy efficient new construction and create market demand for a range of high-performance building products and innovative products and assemblies. This will, in turn, attract investment and create new opportunities and skilled jobs in Canada’s clean-growth economy and, together with high levels of compliance, help the building sector cut its emissions by nearly a third by 2050.

For all these reasons, the short delay in the codes process should not slow things down. The time for action is now.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on thermal comfort in Canada in our LinkedIn and Facebook communities for energy efficiency professionals.

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