Building Codes

BC Building Code Update Comes into Effect December 19, 2014

Is your builder up to date?

That depends on how your builder conducted business before the new BC Building Code Energy Requirements were brought into existence.

New Energy Provisions in the BC Building Code are coming into effect in British Columbia as of Dec. 19, 2014. (For our Vancouver readers, the City of Vancouver Building Bylaw 2014 is yet to be adopted, but is expected to come into effect January 1, 2015.) For the rest of BC, the adoption date for the revised BC Building Code is Dec. 19, 2014.

Many of the new provisions are targeted at reducing building energy consumption. Some of these changes include increased minimum R values to exterior walls, roofs, floors, foundations, windows, doors, better sealing, piping, insulating and locating of mechanical ducting.

Section 9.36 of the new code covers the energy efficiency provisions and the official adopted version will be available for purchase once it’s enacted on December 19th. Til then, you can come across a PDF version of it online at Section 9.36. Energy Efficiency.

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Word On The Street…..

The City of Vancouver Building Bylaw 2014 version with energy upgrade is expected to come into effect January 1, 2015 and, (this is a big AND)will require the building to achieve a MINIMUM building air tightness test rating of 3.5 Air Changes Per Hour. This is significant. Up to now, although air tightness testing has been required, there hasn’t been a requirement to meet a specified performance rating. Now there is.

This requirement alone will be a wakeup call for any builders of homes who may not be up to date with current best building practices. The detailing associated with achieving this air tightness rating will surely cause some builders to revisit business as usual.

Along with this, Certified Energy Advisors (CEA) will be taking on a regulatory/certification role with the City of Vancouver.

In their advisor capacity, the Energy Advisors will be testing new homes both during construction and after the home is completed. The home will be certified that it meets the new building bylaw or it doesn’t.

You might be asking yourself: what happens when the new home doesn’t meet the new COV Building Bylaw, and it’s already been built…..?

Sorry, you’ll have to ask the City of Vancouver to answer that one.

The main changes found in the coming BC Building Code updates are:

  • Air Sealing: Everywhere, more or less. The less air migrating through wall and roof assemblies, the better.
  • Detailing: See Air Sealing above, more (proper detailing) is less (air migration).
  • Higher R Values. The REAL biggy: EFFECTIVE R VALUE vs.NOMINAL R VALUE. This is a principal that has been talked about, recognized and talked about again for many years. Glad to see Effective values finally being required. Half empty stud bays of fibreglass insulation with virtually zero R value are hopefully a thing of the past. This was long overdue, and a welcome change. We should actually see insulation performing the way it was intended.
  • Improved Ventilation: This is more or less a result of the “tighter is better” mantra, and is a necessity if we expect people to live in these highly insulated, air tight spaces. Out with the old (stale moisture laden air), in with the new (fresh air) applies here.
  • Garages are now considered “outside spaces“:In case you wondered why your vehicle was parked outside when you have a perfectly good garage to park it in, it’s because of the building code; it has nothing to do with all the items you have stored in your garage. Really though, Garages are now considered outside spaces for thermal separation purposes.
  • “Heating equipment must be maintained in conditioned space”: And this is a good thing. We can understand why “they” want us to locate the heating equipment inside while having our vehicles parked outside. It is no longer permissible to have a hot water heater located in the garage, for instance.
  • Business as usual for many is no longer going to be permitted: Installing HVAC ducting in exterior walls, utilizing a recirculating hot water system without insulating the piping, will no longer be permitted.

These new requirements will certainly reduce energy consumption in our buildings, and based on estimates that show that our built environments are responsible for consuming 40-50% of society’s total energy use, this type of incremental decrease in energy consumption is a very good thing.

However, along with higher insulated buildings and tighter building envelopes, comes the need for controlled exhaust and supply air.

As a result, the new code also has significant changes in how our buildings are ventilated.

This brings us to to Section 9.32, and it’s many updates. Until it’s officially adopted, a preliminary version can be found here: 2012 BC Building Code Revision 7 – December 19, 2014.

These updates effect the mechanical systems in many ways, from insulation being required on hot water piping, to sealing of ducting (without fabric duct tape), Whatever you do, don’t use duct tape to seal ducts! It’s not allowed……. Who named this product anyway.

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What about renovations/additions? Change or No Change?

Both can be answered in the affirmative.

Typically, the new energy requirements will apply to new additions to existing homes, (this is the change) and typically, the “Authority Having Jurisdiction” will be making a judgement call on the interface between existing and new portions of the home, and will deem whether the existing interface will need to be updated to meet current requirements (this is the no Change). The Authority Having Jurisdiction has always had subjective decision making ability.

All in all, the new code has a little bit for everyone to consider.

And overall, I personally think it’s a good thing.Yes, building to this new minimum requirement will cost some builders more than what its cost them in the past, but the end result will be a happier and healthier Home Owner.

If nothing else, it might help the more reputable builders to address the question so often asked in the past by a potential client:“why does it cost more to build my home if I use you?”

It’s because the reputable builders have been implementing a lot of these “new” requirements before they were requirements, back when they were “best practices”. Keep in mind, the Building Code is a MINIMUM requirement. Nothing has stopped builders from building homes that went beyond minimum code requirements other than client willingness and market forces, some of which have been influenced by the builders that try to “get away” with barely meeting the minimum code requirements. I see a more level playing field in the immediate future, one where Higher Quality will prevail over Lowest Price.

Which reminds me of a saying I was once told:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

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Perhaps the next code updates will help bring to all new Home Owners what Quality Builders have been delivering for some time, a better built home that is a more comfortable, healthier, and more energy efficient living space which will be enjoyed for many, many years.

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David Girard
President and CEO