October 17, 2023, Penticton City Council will be receiving a recommendation from staff about accelerating the Zero Carbon Step Code. This Code was introduced May 1 by the BC government to allow communities to reduce carbon emissions from new homes.
“By 2030, all new buildings will be zero carbon, and all new space and water heating equipment will meet the highest standards for efficiency.”
– CleanBC Roadmap to 2030
The fastest and most effective way to meet GHG reductions is to reduce the emissions from fossil fuel use in buildings, the largest emitters next to vehicles. Our Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) recommending buildings to be looked at.
The ZCSC has 4 levels regarding electrifying appliances in new homes and whether they are PRESCRIPTIVE (using fewer gas appliances) or PERFORMANCE (using software data to show emissions in a building).
Level 1 is Measure Only which means collecting data on emissions.
Level 2 is building without gas for air heating or hot water.
Level 3 is no gas for furnace and hot water (the two largest emitters)
Level 4 is electric homes, but still might allow gas cooking.
The Perfomance allows gas cooking if the whole home can show the least emissions. Gas stoves are not large emitters, so if the home is well built, they may still be allowed.
The Prescriptive, which doesn't use software to determine GHGs, doesn't allow any gas appliances to ensure the least fossil fuel emissions.
Fireplaces and other secondary heating sources are not included in the regulation. A wood fireplace or wood stove, or decorative natural gas fireplace, are excluded.
Penticton staff are recommending Level 1 for a year and then moving to Level 2. This is a good first step, but 13 other communities in BC have seen that going faster to Level 3 or 4 is doable, can be cost effective, and is necessary to reduce the most emissions as quickly as possible. Towns like Saanich gave builders 6 months to measure emissions with easy software and provincial support. In May 2023 they started Measure Only and in November 2023 will start new Part 9 construction (homes) at Level 4.
Saanich is 3 times the size of Penticton and maybe has more staff in the building department to help with the transition. Builders face change in their systems and will have to adapt to new requirements. Staffing is definitely an issue as the work load is already heavy with permits and other pressures during this building boom.
One reason for resistance to the ZCSC is the misunderstanding that eliminating fossil fuel appliances will make the cost of constructing the home more expensive. Builders using air source heat pumps and hot water heaters, or traditional electric water heaters don't find the costs to be over the standard Step 3 Building Code home. Building to Step 4 or 5 (making the house more insulated with tighter walls) can be much more money and require more trained workers. ZCSC requires heat pump installers or plumbers of which we have enough for the 100 or 150 new homes expected in Penticton next year.
Another concern is the belief that there is not enough electricity in BC to power all the homes, EV charging, and more. BCHydro has studied the data and projected demand and is very confident that there is enough power to satisfy demand. Also, when homes draw less power for baseboard heaters or electric hot water heaters as homes retrofit to heat pump systems, the draw on the system will balance out.
Restricting gas in NEW homes for the biggest polluters (air and water) has a huge impact on our total GHG emissions.
Urge the city to choose bold action and follow Saanich and Nanaimo and other communities.
Go BIG. Go to FOUR!