Last year, we wrote a brief article about the BC Energy Step Code. Since then, there’s been a few updates about this upcoming standard.

What is the BC Energy Step Code?

The Step Code is an energy code that sets performance targets rather than the traditional prescriptive approach. In other words, the code requires an energy use target, rather than a certain type of envelope construction or mechanical system type. This gives designers and contractors more flexibility and innovation potential to achieve the desired target.



For example, under step 2, the code requires a building envelope energy demand of less than or equal to 45kWh/m2-year. Only performance targets defined, instead of prescriptive targets, like insulation values.

This is a big departure from the current energy code requirements (such as ASHRAE 90.1-2010) which is much more prescriptive.

Ok, but why should I care?

Effective Dec 15, 2017, cities no longer have legal force to set technical energy requirements. They must adopt some version of the BC Energy Step Code.

Note that the City of Vancouver is exempt from the code as Vancouver has its own Building By-Law. However, they have adopted very similar standards to the BC Energy Step Code.

So which cities have currently adopted the step code?

To date, only the City of North Vancouver has adopted the code for Part 3 buildings.

However, 17 cities in BC, including almost every city in the Lower Mainland has notified the province that they are intending to implement the code.



How does this affect me as a Builder / General Contractor / Developer?

It depends on which level of the code is implemented. One of the options is to go with a Step 0 code, which is the same as current energy code.

Step 1 is also the same as the current energy code with enhanced commissioning;  i.e. energy models will be required to verify energy targets. If that’s the case, current construction standards (complying with ASHRAE 90.1) will be sufficient.

However, if higher steps are required, there will need to be better envelope and more efficient mechanical systems than currently required in buildings.

How does the Energy Step Code compare to the current code (ASHRAE 90.1)?

Unfortunately, this cannot be directly compared. ASHRAE 90.1 sets prescriptive requirements for construction, whereas the new energy code sets overall energy use levels per square meter per year.

I’ve heard I can avoid the BC Energy Step Code by using “Passivhaus”.  What is this?

Passive House is an alternate compliance path for the BC Energy Step Code.

Passivhaus, or Passive House in English, is a high performance building envelope standard.  It results in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for spacing heating or cooling.

While it has been applied for larger buildings, it is almost always used for smaller residential buildings.

Help!  I need more information.

More information can be found here:

Please also feel free to call BC Comfort’s Design team at 604-439-3344 for specific questions.