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Climate and Construction: Proposed OBC kicks energy efficiency ‘down the road’ — Efficiency Canada, part two

John Bleasby
Climate and Construction: Proposed OBC kicks energy efficiency ‘down the road’ — Efficiency Canada, part two

Ontario’s adoption of the 2020NBC is under attack by numerous building and energy efficiency experts. In addition to allegations of a confused consultation process, critics are concerned the province is failing to address national building code aspirations seriously.

Kevin Lockhart, research director at Efficiency Canada, continues his conversation with the Daily Commercial News, outlining how Canada’s most populous province falls short.

The national building code was released on March 28, two weeks after Ontario’s consultation period expired. How were interested parties able to make submissions concerning the province’s adoption of the code without a full copy in front of them?

The process definitely caused confusion in the Ontario building community. It was also confusing and difficult for those interested in participating in the consultation. In fact, Energy Efficiency didn’t have a copy.


It seems Ontario is only adopting the first of five proposed tiers for Part 3 buildings and only the first three tiers for Part 9 buildings. That seems a very marginal improvement over the 2015 building code.

Yes, absolutely. I would characterize it as maintaining the status quo.


Where does that leave the province in terms of the commitments made by the federal government for Canadian GHG reductions by 2030?

The problem is, adoption of the code in Ontario will take a year if not a year-and-a-half. So, we are looking at late 2023 or early 2024. To adopt the near-net-zero energy efficiency standards as was the commitment in the Pan Canadian framework, it leaves only one code cycle to move from Tier 1 to Tier 4.


Are you suggesting Ontario’s limited 2020NBC adoption could undermine Canada’s ability to meet the federal government’s 2030 emission reduction targets?

Yes. This approach falls well short of the International Energy Agency’s net-zero scenario urging governments to “act before 2025 to ensure zero-carbon-ready (NZEr) compliant buildings codes are implemented.” It would take a series of swift and uncomfortable measures for everybody to race through the tiers and meet that standard. Tiered codes are intended to provide a pathway to NZEr, allowing us to gradually and incrementally work our way through changes that are within our capacity. That way, we can absorb those changes and move up through the tiers as our capacity grows and as products develop in a way that won’t be rushed. The tier codes are intended to provide certainty and Ontario has taken that away. It’s just making the problem more difficult in the future. It’s kicking the can down the road.


What about federal aspirations for code harmonization across the provinces and territories?

Having all code tiers available would advance harmonization. All players in all jurisdictions would know clearly at what tier they are operating from a national code perspective. Early adopters would act as catalysts regarding their code implementation. Learning from that, particularly at the upper tiers, and sharing that knowledge with others, would bring the market forward and accelerate the adoption of the highest tier levels.


Ontario is one of the few provinces not allowing municipalities to mandate higher tiers than its own provincial code. How would access to all code tiers help municipalities that want to do better?

What a tiered code framework does is remove the burden of developing additional green standards on local governments. Individual green standard developments make it difficult to work between jurisdictions. Tiered code adoption would help to align them with a single backstop from the province and help local governments follow well-defined pathways through the model code. Municipalities could adopt their own standards but it would ensure that everyone is on the same path, again acting as a catalyst by disseminating the lessons learned. I can’t imagine the province’s reasoning by denying this.


And in conclusion?

This code cycle was an opportunity for Ontario to accelerate energy efficient building practices. I think the building industry is absolutely ready to adopt higher building standards. It would help if the province didn’t go ahead with approaches that disregard the role that tier codes are supposed to play.

(This interview was condensed and edited)

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Climate and Construction column ideas to

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