Okanagan home builders challenge energy efficiency initiative

B.C. Energy Step Code called to costly for new homes

New home buyers are absorbing an unfair financial hit from the cost of implementing an energy efficiency program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, claims a study done by the Central Okanagan chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association.

The program is called the B.C. Energy Step Code initiative, which is currently a voluntary measure but one the City of Kelowna has under consideration to make mandatory within its municipal limits.

The CHBA-CO says the implementation cost is up to five times the amounts initially estimated by the provincial Step Code Council that oversees the program.

RELATED: Municipal candidates talk building energy efficiency standards

“The step code is a great way for politicians to score green points with voters, however the program simply passes on its costs to homebuyers, resulting in the next generation of homebuyers being locked out of the market. Implementing the Step Code comes at a substantial cost,” said Les Bellamy, president of the CHBA-CO.

“We cannot allow home ownership to become a privilege to only the wealthy.”

The CHBA-CO’s findings were outlined in a report, titled “A Study by Industry for Consumers,” which Bellamy will formally present Dec. 12 to the Step Code Council at a Vancouver meeting.

“We had industry professionals draft up building plans that meet step code requirements. They design projects every day and develop real building plans and cost estimates. The data in this report is shockingly different than the estimates presented by the step code council,” said Bellamy.

He said the report’s data reflects a need to keep the step code voluntary, and to to work with all levels of government to implement an energy efficiency renovation program given that every dollar invested in an existing home will yield four to seven times more greenhouse gas reductions than the same dollar invested in a new home.

In 2017, the provincial government established the Energy Step Code Council to support the successful implementation of the B.C. Energy Step Code and the market transition to net-zero energy ready buildings.

A representative of the provincial building and safety standards branch chairs the council while government, industry and utility stakeholders serve as council representatives.

RELATED: Kelowna council gives green light to climate action plan

The step code council estimates claimed the cost to implement the lower level of the Step Code adds less than two per cent ($10,000) to the cost of construction, according to a 2017 Metrics Research Summary Report. But the CHBA-CO claims its study data revealed those costs to range from a four to nine per cent increase, a cost between $20,200 and $48,700.

In addition to the increased cost and pressure on affordability, the CHBA-CO report raises concerns about the industry’s capacity to implement the step code and a concern for the actual environmental benefits.

“In practice, the environmental benefits of the step code are minimal when compared to the benefits that could be gained through an energy efficient renovation program for older homes,” Bellamy said.

Bellamy explained the step code applies to construction of new homes only, which represents only one per cent of all homes in BC.

Houses built before 1990, on average, use 100per cent more energy than new homes. Those built between 1990 and 2012 use 60 per cent more energy than homes built to the current building code.

“If the objective is reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it is better to focus on renovations to 99 per cent of B.C. homes. Energy retro-fits, completed by licensed contractors, will have massive environmental benefits and contribute far more to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the environment,” Bellamy argued.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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