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Canada's Building Code Needs Some Green Ambition
January 24, 2021

Canada’s Building Code needs some green ambition

Canada’s 2020 national model building code falls short on the ambition needed to meet 2030 climate targets for building energy efficiency, says a new report by Efficiency Canada, an energy efficiency research and advocacy organization at Carleton University.

Energy used in buildings accounts for roughly 15% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and a quarter of total energy consumption. To curtail this pollution, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF) calls for all new buildings in Canada to be Net-Zero Energy Ready by 2030 – meaning buildings are constructed to such a high standard of efficiency that the owner can add on a renewable energy source that meets the building’s total energy needs.

“We can’t afford, given the climate crisis, to have inefficient buildings locked in,” says Kevin Lockhart, the lead author of the report. “We have to aim for the best performing new buildings we can between now and 2050.”

Doing so requires not only ratcheting up the stringency of building codes on energy efficiency, but also a fundamental shift away from traditionally designed building codes that serve only to create a “minimum acceptable standard,” toward a “stretch” model that encourages higher levels of ambition to meet climate goals, the report says.

“The code is not only just a minimum, it’s really signaling where we need to go,” says Brendan Haley, the report’s co-author.

Building codes are provincial jurisdiction – provinces and territories are free to design and implement their own – but the national model building code sets the bar, promotes harmonization of building codes, and sends a signal to the building market on future expectations. Some provinces follow the national model code as-is, and some modify the code to suit their needs.

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