Taking the Step: Move made toward zero carbon building code in Nelson
Nelson will be taking steps to make its way to the bottom next spring.
As of May 1, 2024 the City will be implementing the B.C. Zero Carbon Step Code, the maximum annual amount of greenhouse gas emissions that each new building is allowed to emit.
Adopting the BC Zero Carbon Step Code — and a higher standard of the BC Energy Step Code — will benefit the City of Nelson in meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate resilient ambitions, noted a City staff report delivered on Nov. 7.
“The proposed changes will help the City of Nelson move towards our goal of zero carbon buildings, and net zero ready new construction — as outlined in Nelson Next,” the report stated. “Significantly, complex part nine and part three buildings are large and thus impact our community emissions more significantly.”
The Zero Carbon Step Code has been introduced by the Province as a more targeted means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Step Code and Building amendment bylaw includes the provision that part three buildings — four storeys and taller, and have a footprint of more than 600 square metres — and part nine buildings —houses and other small buildings less than 600 sq. m. — be required to meet step three of the Energy Step Code and EL-2 of the Zero Carbon Step Code.
“In other words, the Zero Carbon Step Code would be introduced to building regulation for part three buildings in Nelson and regulations related to the Energy Step Code would be advanced,” said the City staff report on the changes announced on Nov. 7.
The BC Energy Step Code, first introduced in 2017, enables BC authority having jurisdictions — like the City of Nelson — to go beyond the requirements of the minimum provisions in the BC Building Code to increase the energy efficiency of new buildings.
In February 2023, the Province published Revision 5 to the 2018 BC Building Code, which was adopted by the Province on May 1, 2023, and included the introduction of the BC Zero Carbon Step Code, which seeks to address building operational greenhouse gas emissions.
“This standard was developed in part due to a finding that the Energy Step Code was not resulting in the desired reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” said the City report.
Both Step Codes seek to advance CleanBC’s building decarbonization plans.
Taking the steps
The BC Energy Step Code is a performance-based approach to achieve energy-efficiency requirements for new construction.
In order to meet the requirement of any step of the code a model of the proposed building design must be completed prior to applying for a building permit or beginning construction.
“This is intended to confirm that the design should result in the building meeting, or exceeding, the minimum required metric targets for each step,” noted the City staff report. “Staff requires confirmation of compliance prior to issuing a building permit in the form of a pre-construction compliance form.”
Not in step
The proposal does not include explicit consideration of embodied carbon emissions — emissions produced through the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials.
The Province has still yet to incorporate standards and requirements to enable action on reducing embodied carbon emissions within the Building Code.
“Staff are aware of the challenges this presents and want to be strategic with how to tackle emission reduction strategies so as to not lose trust or commitment from our strong building community,” read a City staff report. “By pursuing practical, creative, and locally relevant solutions, staff believe that it will give Nelson the greatest ability to meaningfully reduce embodied carbon emissions over the long term, with a collaborative effort from the community.”
Source: Nov. 7 City of Nelson agenda