Governments across Canada have identified climate change, energy efficiency and protection of the environment as key policy and program objectives. Building codes are among the most powerful and cost-effective policy instruments available to government to deliver on these objectives. Consumers expect governments to enact building codes with provisions that extend beyond the health and safety of the occupant and embrace the health and safety of the environment.
As the Canadian housing industry moves into the twenty-first century, consumers have sought building codes that include provisions dealing with energy efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change. These provisions should be a mandatory part of a national codified standard for energy efficiency in houses and residential buildings.
Energy efficiency plays a very important role in new home buyers’ decisions, to the extent that many have been willing to pay a premium for an energy-efficient home. Consumers would no doubt appreciate a mandatory minimum level of energy efficiency for new construction, regulated by a consistent national standard.
As the Consumers Council deepened its involvement in this issue -- more than 60 years after the 1941 release of the National Building Code -- it found no model energy efficiency requirements in the code. To meet the energy efficiency goals of both government and consumers in the 21st century, the Council urged the Canadian housing industry to develop a national codified standard for energy efficiency in houses and residential buildings.
Although provincial governments have jurisdiction over building codes, the National Building Code is the model upon which the provinces base their codes. In order to guarantee that new homes purchased by Canadians will be energy efficient, the Council urged the federal government in 2008 to take action to ensure the following:
- Energy efficiency is adopted as a core objective of the National Building Code of Canada for inclusion in the 2010 edition.
- The National Research Council of Canada accelerates updating of the Model National Energy Code for Buildings for inclusion as a reference in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada.
- The National Research Council of Canada immediately update the Model National Energy Code for Houses for inclusion as a reference in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada.
Since the Council began its intervention to achieve a building code offering an improved energy efficiency model, much work has been done. While changes have taken time, the Council is very pleased that all its recommendations have been acted on.
- The principle of energy efficiency as an objective of the National Building Code has been accepted. Protection of the environment has been made an objective, with energy efficiency a sub-objective. This opened the door for water conservation to be added to National Building Code specifications. Work is underway to accept water efficiency as an objective of the National Building and Plumbing Codes, with a target of inclusion in the 2015 edition of the Codes.
- The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings was issued in 2011.
- At the request of the provinces/territories -- the jurisdictions that adopt the national codes -- energy efficiency for housing and small buildings (i.e. Part 9 structures) will be addressed by adding provisions to the existing National Building Code (as opposed to having a separate energy code for houses as done previously). This will be done as an interim change to the National Building Code with a target date for the fall of 2012.