Before starting any build, it is important to know the requirements and the standard practices within construction.

Usually, a Building Code is consulted and required to ensure that the building will be safe to use.

The Province of British Columbia (BC) first introduced energy efficiency as a BC Building Code objective in 2008 to make buildings net-zero energy ready by 2032 in line with CleanBC goals. Ever since, designers, builders and construction companies have had the option to use either “prescriptive” or “performance” approaches to comply with the code’s efficiency requirements.

The BC Building Code is standard practice and compulsory in any new construction. This “prescriptive” approach considers things like insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, lighting and other equipment and systems, to meet the minimum requirements for safety, health, accessibility, fire, and structural protection of buildings.

This means that the BC Building Code looks at individual elements, rather than the collective energy performance of a building, which can result in the building not performing as well as it was intended.

Builders have a second option to comply with the energy-efficiency requirements of the BC Building Code: the performance approach. The BC Energy Step Code offers a specific form of this approach. The performance approach establishes a desired energy conservation outcome before the build is started.  It is then up to the design and building team to decide how to achieve it, through energy software modelling and on-site testing.

The performance requirements are grouped into “steps” according to the energy efficiency percentage. Anyone that has jurisdiction over the BC Building Code – including local governments – can choose to require or incentivize builders to meet one or more steps of the BC Energy Step Code as an alternative to the code’s prescriptive requirements.


(Borrowed from )

The diagram above shows what the performance improvements look like for simple buildings (those covered under Part 9 of the BC Building Code). It outlines five steps from the current BC Building Code requirements to net-zero energy ready requirements for Part 9 residential buildings. 

For governments, the BC Energy Step Code offers assurance that new buildings are performing as billed. Building and construction teams, on the other hand, have a more flexible option to comply with the energy-efficiency provisions of the provincial legislation. The new standard encourages builders to research and pursue innovative, creative, cost-effective solutions—and allows them to source new technologies as they become available.

By adopting the BC Energy Step code, local governments and their communities will be able to take advantage of the multiple benefits associated with more energy efficient new homes, including:

  • Greenhouse Gas Reductions – High-efficiency homes require less energy to heat. This results in reduced carbon emissions, even if homes are heated with fossil fuels. Homes which are heated with a heat pump will have the lowest carbon emissions.
  • Better Affordability – Reduced energy consumption results in lower energy costs, which means less money problems at the end of the day.
  • Increased Comfort – Increased insulation and airtightness within a home means that it is better equipped to maintain a more even temperature throughout, for a more comfortable home.
  • Better Health – Energy efficient homes do a better job of refreshing the indoor air by filtering out any unwanted mould, moisture, pollen and other allergens.
  • Improved Durability – A high-efficiency home is less likely to have moisture and condensation issues that can lead to the deterioration of the building envelope.
  • Job Creation – The BC Energy Step Code could open up new opportunities for B.C. in the growing global market for energy efficiency education, technology, and services, resulting in multiple job opportunities.

While municipalities are using the BC Energy Step Code as a voluntary option, the idea is for the Province of British Columbia to require certain steps of the code in the future to meet Provincial targets. By 2032, the BC Building Code will move toward the higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code as a minimum requirement. The National Building Code of Canada is similarly moving towards this outcome by 2030.


(Borrowed from )

The diagram above outlines the four steps for more complex buildings (covered by Part 3 of the code), to net-zero energy ready requirements.