The BC step code is a layered implementation for a net zero building (residential or commercial), with the aim of having all new buildings having a net zero energy footprint by 2032. With the undeniable effects of climate change, this is a necessary initiative for the construction industry to help mitigate the further deterioration of the environment.
What is a net zero building? Basically it’s an edifice constructed to a specification that ensures that it will show itself to consume zero energy on an annual basis. This means that certain technologies will have to be included in the house or building so that it generates energy onsite. With regard to the BC step code, the implementation is layered into 5 steps, and aims for increasing efficiency over time, with net zero compliance by 2032.
The 5 levels of the step code (for homes) are:
- Compliance with the enhanced building code
- 10% more efficient
- 20% better efficiency
- 40% more efficient
- Compliance with the net zero building code
The BC step code uses a performance-based implementation, meaning it is up to the builder on how the house or building will be constructed. The BC step code lays out the target efficiency (which increases on an annual basis), and it is up to the builder how the construction project achieves that particular target. The builder may choose to combine components like windows, lighting, insulation and equipment like water heaters, furnaces and inverter systems to achieve the target efficiency. They are also free to choose what materials and construction methods to adopt in order to achieve compliance with the target efficiency. Since the step codes focus on individual systems instead of a whole system, the resulting building can have inefficiencies when compared to an integrated system. Furthermore, the initial cost of construction may be more, due to less than mature technologies.
Compliance with the BC step code practically requires that the builder hire the services of an energy advisor to ensure compliance and the best component mix. It’s reasonable to assume that there will be added costs to comply with the step code, but this added cost will depend on the level of compliance individual municipalities may have adopted. Builders will need to use software modelling and on-site testing to show that they are complying with the required levels of efficiency. Since there will tend to be confusion in implementing the step codes, it is best to consult with professional custom home builders to avoid errors and unnecessary expenditures in ensuring compliance.