Sustainable BIZ Canada | February 12, 2024
Wendy C. Macdonald, P.Eng., ENV SP, LEED® AP BD+C | Sustainability Consultant

Changes to British Columbia’s building code are geared to elevating the sustainability of  buildings in the key areas of energy, materials and climate resilience, a sustainability consultant and engineer told Sustainable Biz Canada.

Wendy Macdonald, with Vancouver-based, RJC Engineers, spoke about updates to B.C.’s building code which were implemented last year and others being discussed for implementation in 2024 and 2025.

Changes to the code that took effect in May 2023 affected energy efficiency targets and the Zero Carbon Step Code. From March 2024, one living space per building must not exceed 26 C. The proposed change that may take place as early as spring 2024 would allow for taller mass timber buildings. A seismic requirements code change that will take place after March 2025 addresses embodied carbon.

As engineers, designers and contractors learn of changes to the codes, Macdonald said there will always be a “bit of reticence, a bit of concern with change.” But the codes are now known, so industries can adapt or learn from municipalities that have already adopted the higher-level step codes to have more sustainable buildings, she continued.

Addressing energy and carbon

Macdonald, who has 17 years of experience in LEED consulting, said the changes introduced in 2023 “have big implications to the sustainability of a building during operations.”

From May 1, 2023, the BC Building Code enforced a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency for most new buildings, and the Zero Carbon Step Code provided tools to local governments to lower emissions in new buildings.

The BC Energy Step Code sets provincial alignment on net-zero energy buildings, she said. With the change in May, any authority which did not previously sign on to enforce the BC Energy Step Code now must do so. Macdonald said it does more than require energy use disclosures by mandating a community must meet the energy target.

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