Op/Ed: Zero carbon buildings
By Maya Provençal, Rossland City Councillor
The summer of 2021 was my first summer back in the Kootenays after being away for nearly five years. I was so excited to indulge in all of my favourite summer activities like taking the dog up KC, and swimming at Nancy Greene Lake. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do much of either of those things – instead, a relentless combination of extreme heat and thick wildfire smoke kept me inside for the majority of the summer. While I had always cared about the environment, this was the first time that climate change became personal to me.
As another record-breaking wildfire season sets in – earlier in the year than ever before – I’m reflecting on the need to do everything in my power to reduce the pollution that’s causing climate change while also making our homes, schools and workplaces more resilient to future extreme weather events.
Last week, I, along with the majority of my fellow Council members, voted for Rossland to move forward with requiring Zero Carbon new buildings in our community. If passed, this move will mean that new buildings are powered by clean energy sources like electric heat pumps, which, unlike gas furnaces, automatically provide cooling – protecting our most vulnerable residents during deadly heat waves.
As a member of the 100% Renewable Kootenays Network, the City of Rossland knows that powering new buildings with clean electricity rather than polluting methane gas is a critically important step to transitioning our community over to renewable energy, especially since gas used in buildings is one of our top sources of climate pollution. This move will also help residents save money on utility bills, since new models of heat pumps are three to four times more efficient than gas appliances, and building all-electric homes costs the same for developers as building with gas appliances.
Switching to electric appliances also makes our indoor environments healthier. Health studies are showing us that gas appliances leak toxic chemicals into our indoor air and create pollution during combustion that lead to higher rates of childhood asthma and other serious health problems. And these indoor air quality issues are even more dangerous for people living in small spaces.
In taking this step towards Zero Carbon construction, Rossland is working to join over a dozen communities across BC that have already passed low carbon buildings policies, including our neighbours in Nelson. I am proud to be part of this growing SAFE Cities movement to phase out fossil fuels and build safer, healthier communities through municipal action.
In the months and years ahead of us, we’ll face a lot of tough choices about how to tackle the climate crisis. But this truly isn’t one of them. As we move forward on this issue, I urge my fellow councillors to move expeditiously to pass the strongest version of this new Zero Carbon building policy, because the health of Rossland homes and the resilience of our climate depends on it.