Zero Carbon Step Code in BC
On May 1, 2023, the new Zero Carbon Step Code (ZCSC) for NEW home construction was added to the BC Building Code.
Adopting the Zero Carbon Step Code is an effective way for municipalities to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new buildings. Since buildings and transportation are the largest GHG polluters in BC, limiting the use of fossil "natural" gas in new buildings is cheaper and more effective that retrofitting older buildings.
Under the Zero Carbon Step Code (ZCSC) local governments can require or incentivize builders to meet one of four emissions levels (EL).
1. Measure-only (EL-1): measurement only of a building’s emissions (NB: most building design software already provides this data). Purpose is to build knowledge and capacity;
2. Moderate (EL-2): in most cases, will require electric space heating or hot water systems;
3. Strong (EL-3): in most cases, will require electric space heating and hot water systems;
4. Zero (EL-4): in most cases, will require full electrification of a building.
Note: Gas fireplaces, barbeques and patio heaters are allowed under all levels.
A dozen municipalities have already adopted the Zero Carbon Step Code. By 2030, Zero Carbon level 4 will be mandatory across the province.
Download the 2-page Zero Carbon Primer.
Benefits of the Zero Carbon Step Code
The ZCSC promotes healthier and more comfortable living spaces adapted to both cold winters and warmer summers.
Electric heat pumps are more affordable in the long term. Heat Pumps Pay Off: Unlocking lower cost heating and cooling in Canada.
Building emission and energy standards are becoming increasingly stringent. Installing low emission, energy efficient appliances in new buildings avoids costly retrofits in the future.
Carbon tax increases will continue to increase the cost of natural gas for residential and commercial customers. - Gas fireplaces, barbecues and patio heaters are allowed under all levels of the ZCSC.
Natural gas (fossil gas) is composed of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Natural gas is obtained by fracking, an industrial process associated with contaminated ground water, air pollution, and health impacts.
Information for Builders
Builders can choose to achieve the required Zero Carbon Step Code energy level based on either emissions level quantity and intensity (performance approach), OR by installing zero-emission appliances and equipment (prescriptive approach) such as heat pumps, electric stoves, and hot water heaters.
A study by ZEBx concluded that high-performance, all electric buildings can be constructed for less than the average cost of similar code-minimum buildings. These costs can be expected to fall further as highperformance construction becomes the norm.
Contractor webinar Community Energy Association CEA
Industry arguments in favour of Zero Carbon Ready Bruce Murdoch PDF
BC gov't notice May 1, 2023 BC Government
Anaylsis Building DeCarbonization Alliance
Help Cities Lead
Zero Carbon Step Code Backgrounder Help Cities Lead
Zero Carbon Step Code FAQs
Help Cities Lead ALL LINKS
Heat Pumps are Cost Effective Transition Accelerator
More about LOW COSTS Climate Institute Canada
Gas Appliances in Homes are Toxic Polluters Environmental Science and Technology
Open Letter to BC Municipalities Stand.earth Safe Cities
Letter to BC Councils (Joint Industry) Pembina Institute
Saanich Info on Step Code and ZCSC