May was a month of some big changes to the building code. As of May 1st, the BC Step Code became mandatory across the province. All new residential and multi-family buildings (Part 9 buildings) must now meet a minimum of Step 3 energy efficiency standards. That is equal to 20%-better energy efficiency than the base 2018 BC Building Code.
The province has also introduced the Zero Carbon Step Code, which used to be known as the Carbon Pollution Standard. The Zero Carbon Step Code allows municipalities to limit operational carbon from new buildings – that means things like heating and cooling with an electric heat pump or cooking on an electric stove.
It is currently optional, but it is the way things are going. The province intends to make operational carbon limits mandatory. The ultimate aim is for all new buildings to be zero carbon by 2030 to meet the province’s target of all new buildings being fully net-zero-ready two years later.

Quick Facts:

  • The BC Energy Step Code is now a mandatory energy-efficiency requirement in the BC Building Code for most new buildings.
  • All new Part 9 buildings must be built to Step 3 on the BC Energy Step Code.
  • Local governments can still go above the minimum energy-efficiency step of the BC Building Code for new buildings.
  • The Zero Carbon Step Code is a new voluntary, provincial standard for reducing emissions in new buildings, but it will eventually become mandatory.
  • Local governments can use the Zero Carbon Step Code in their bylaws and programs to reduce carbon in new construction.
  • The Zero Carbon Step Code regulates primary space-heating equipment. Secondary heating systems such as wood stoves and gas-burning fireplaces are exempt.

Currently, fossil fuel space and water heating equipment contribute to the majority of household carbon pollution.

64% Space heating 35% Water heating 1% Cooking

The Zero Carbon Step Code is about the electrification of buildings and aims for no greenhouse gas emissions from houses. It is broken down into three stages or “steps”: moderate, strong and zero carbon.
The level labelled moderate allows for fossil fuel water heating and cooking but all else must be electric. Strong still allows fossil fuel cooking but eliminates fossil fuel heating. Zero means all systems are electric.