Like a school report card sent home to parents, Efficiency Canada’s (EC) 2022 Scorecard informs Canadians from coast-to-coast how their provinces are performing in terms of energy efficiency and emission reductions.
The detailed 265-page document was compiled by EC researchers James Gaede, Alyssa Nippard and Annabelle Linders, along with EC’s director of policy research, Brendan Haley. The report examined the 18-month period between January 2021 and June 2022, both in terms of current strengths and future opportunities, ie. opportunities where a province is positioned to use its strengths to improve.
EC’s 2022 scorecard covers several disciplines across the energy and emissions spectrum. The general population may only be interested in the overall scoring across all categories. Here, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Québec retained the top three spots, like the previous scorecard. Saskatchewan Newfoundland and Alberta scored the worst.
For the country’s construction industry, however, the subject of interest is building codes — their evolution, adoption and future direction. Points, like test scores at school, were awarded on the basis of building code strengths, labelling, benchmarking and disclosure, and appliance and equipment standards.
The report notes during the review period, there were a number of key developments affecting building codes and building performance, most notably the official release of the NBC 2020 model building code.
It may come as little surprise that British Columbia scored well ahead of all other provinces, with 80 per cent more points than the next two provinces, Ontario and Quebec. At the bottom of the heap by a significant margin were Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
At the same time, EC notes although at the top, British Columbia is not perfect.
“The province’s need for energy efficiency goes beyond reducing GHGs and energy bills,” the report says.
It notes how extreme heat events in recent years are exposing “a class of underperforming and unsafe buildings and have caused deaths.”
EC is advocating “the right to be cool” in B.C., through upgrades in existing buildings such as better insulation and heat pumps, and the establishment of tenant rights to ensure affordability, security and maximum temperature thresholds.
The report credits Ontario for having a provincial code that falls “roughly equivalent to the middle performance tiers found within the new national model codes.”
However, it also notes Ontario has proposed maintaining its current code and supplemental SB12 for the time being, and only committing to the adoption of Tier 1 of the 2020 NBC model. The result is that the province will not raise its energy performance expectations beyond the 2015 NBC until it raises its own code officially to Tier 2/3 by 2030.
Neither has Ontario made any net-zero energy or net-zero emissions commitments. In contrast, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon have committed to both, by 2032 at the latest.
For commercial, institutional and large residential buildings, the report notes the three most recent versions of the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) have set progressively higher energy efficiency requirements.
Tier 1 of the new 2020 NECB is expected to deliver a three to five per cent performance improvement over the 2017 version, according to communication between EC and Natural Resource Canada personnel.
Sadly, authority for municipalities to set their own green standards above the national or provincial code is inconsistent across the country.
Although promoted in B.C. through its step code and enshrined in Quebec and Saskatchewan, Ontario’s new Bill 23 retrogressively takes away that authority from local jurisdictions, claiming it adds to building costs and slows new housing development.
The tiered approach taken with the 2020 NBC model code was meant to address code harmonization by allowing provinces and municipalities to work with the same set of solutions. It appears that hasn’t happened as hoped. The disjointed adoption of the new model code will be a focus of the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes as it begins its meetings next year.
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Climate and Construction column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.