Climate emergency requirements for new housing 3-storeys and under 

Submission to the City of Vancouver in support of the proposed changes to Vancouver’s Building Bylaw

April 27, 2020

Policy Work | Submissions

Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council 
City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue Vancouver, BC   

V5Y 1V4  

Dear Mayor and Council:  

Re: Climate Emergency Requirements for New Housing 3-Storeys and Under 

We are writing to you in support of the proposed changes to Vancouver’s Building Bylaw that will “decrease carbon pollution and increase the energy efficiency requirements for residential buildings 3 storeys and under, including townhomes; to move closer into alignment with the BC Energy Step Code for residential buildings 4-6 storeys; to set a 2 tonne carbon pollution cap for new single family and duplex dwellings 325m2+.” 

Efficiency Canada is the national voice for an energy efficient economy. Our mission is to create a sustainable environment and better life for all Canadians by making our country a global leader in energy efficiency policy, technology, and jobs. We conduct rigorous policy analysis, communicate compelling narratives, and convene and mobilize Canada’s dynamic energy efficiency sector. Efficiency Canada is housed at Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre. 

British Columbia and Vancouver specifically have previously been highlighted in our work, particularly our Efficiency Scorecard, where B.C. received an A+, the highest rating in Canada. Vancouver and B.C.’s approach to buildings is generating long-term savings and healthy buildings for its citizens and delivering on a core pillar of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. As demonstrated in the Vancouver Economic Commission’s report on the economic impact of the Vancouver Building Bylaw and the B.C. Energy Step Code, beyond obvious benefits to the environment and health, these codes are generating a new local market of over $3 billion for high-performance building products.Clearly, the time to act is now. 

As we have previously written to the Government of Canada with regards to the National Model Energy Code for Buildings, we believe that advanced, high-performance building codes are not only a core part of our climate action as a nation, but an essential tool for economic recovery that can help stave off the impacts of a potentially deep recession when the COVID-19 health crisis ends. Vancouver has an opportunity to deliver on these two crucial needs to its citizens with the stroke of a pen.  

Immediate investments directed towards building energy codes can immediately bolster the capacity and effectiveness of the buildings sector workforce while physical distancing measures remain in place. Over the long-term, these investments can also lock-in the structural changes that Canada needs to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reach a net-zero emissions future by 2050. 

Code adoption & compliance activities to accelerate recovery  

The COVID-19 induced financial crisis has drawn many comparisons to the Great Recession of 2008. Responding to the unparalleled financial shock and resulting uncertainty of that recession, the Obama administration enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The intent was to stabilize the economy, create or save jobs and invest in sustainable long‐run growth.  

The ARRA tied $3.1 billion in stimulus funding to requirements directing states to adopt stringent energy building codes, as well as state efforts to increase building energy code compliance, from 50% in most jurisdictions at the time, to 90% by 2017. 

Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation.  

The COVID-19 induced shutdown has led to significant economic contraction, destabilized the economy, and left millions under-employed. Measures to encourage energy efficient buildings can be used to immediately scale up capacity and knowledge sharing in the buildings sector, activate local employment and accelerate long-term market transformation.  

In the coming months, significant increases to existing supports and programming can facilitate reductions in carbon pollution from new single family and multifamily residential buildings that are 3 storeys and under to near zero emissionsSimilar to the ARRA, significant financial incentives conditional on the adoption of stronger building energy codes will signal to investors and consumers that this economic recovery is Vancouver’s transition to a clean economy, encourage investments in high-performance buildings and products, and lock-in energy efficient structural change for decades to come. 

More immediately, online training and capacity building efforts can reduce barriers to adoption and greatly increase compliance over the long-term, while providing direct relief for building officials, trades, and supporting services in finance, insurance and real estate idled by physical distancing. 

Capture immediate and long-run benefits through advanced building energy codes 

The proposed changes to Vancouver’s Building Bylaw will help reduce Vancouver’s energy demand and associated emissions. As part of the economic recovery, these measures can also provide immediate benefits and, in the future, ensure our buildings are more comfortable, resilient, durable and better able to provide security against future disruptions caused by weather, electricity outages and more.  

Stronger building energy codes are amongst a number of measures that can contribute to the COVID-19 economic recovery. We would be pleased to discuss further how building code adoption and compliance can generate employment in the clean-energy economy, stimulate innovative clean technology and help the buildings sector lead Canada’s transition to a low-carbon future.  


Kevin Lockhart 
Efficient Buildings Lead, Efficiency Canada


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