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Navigating the BC Energy Step Code: Building a Sustainable Future

Jun 15



With the British Columbia  Building Code update, exciting changes are on the horizon for energy efficiency requirements. The implementation of the BC Energy Step Code on a province-wide level introduced new targets and processes for designers, architects, and builders in the residential construction industry. At Shoreline Building Performance, our experienced team is ready to guide you through this transition, providing the necessary resources and expertise to help you meet the new standards with ease.


What is the BC Energy Step Code:

The BC Energy Step Code, introduced in 2017, offers a performance-based approach to meeting energy efficiency requirements for buildings paving the way for achieving Net Zero Energy Ready buildings by 2032. While the lower steps of the code have been voluntary in many areas, the code updated in December 2022 makes Step 3 the preferred compliance path going forward. Although a prescriptive backstop is included for regions without access to an energy advisor, the performance path offers greater cost-effectiveness in markets with energy advisors.


Transitioning from Prescriptive to Performance-based Approaches:

Historically, builders in British Columbia have followed prescriptive paths to meet energy efficiency requirements. However, as operational energy usage gains importance, a performance-based approach is becoming essential. Energy modeling, conducted by energy advisors, evaluates the overall performance of the building by considering various metrics related to the building envelope and mechanical systems. This collaboration allows builders to optimize their projects, identify areas with high returns, and construct high-performance homes. Step 3 requires buildings to be 20% more efficient than the National Building Code reference house, validated through metrics and on-site testing.

To learn more about the BC Step Code, watch this video here from our registered energy advisor Josh Kovac. 

Breaking Down the Metrics:

The BC Energy Step Code metrics for Part 9 and Part 3 buildings can be categorized into three major areas: airtightness, equipment and systems, and building enclosure.


  1. Airtightness: Airtightness measures the uncontrolled leakage between the interior and exterior of a home and is expressed in air changes per hour (ACH). Step 3 requires achieving an airtightness value of 2.5 ACH for single-family detached homes. Pre-drywall blower door testing and air sealing can help identify leakage points and ensure compliance. Proper ventilation in an airtight home promotes good indoor air quality and occupant health.


  1. Equipment and Systems: Space heating, cooling, and hot water heating significantly impact a home's energy rating. Step 3 provides two compliance options: achieving 20% less energy usage than the reference house or meeting mechanical energy usage intensity (MEUI) targets. High-efficiency systems in these areas create flexibility for achieving overall energy efficiency goals.


  1. Building Enclosure: Compliance options for the building enclosure include performance better than the reference house or meeting thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) targets. Enclosure metrics isolate the performance of the building envelope and consider factors such as heat loss, air leakage, and solar heat gains. Adjustments may be made based on location-specific heating degree days.


Working with an Energy Advisor:

Navigating the metrics and compliance options may seem daunting, but partnering with an experienced Registered Energy Advisor can simplify the process. At Shoreline Building Performance, our advisors offer their expertise and collaborate closely with builders to find cost-effective and practical solutions. From evaluating pre-permit drawings to conducting energy modeling, they ensure compliance with the BC Energy Step Code. Mid-construction blower door tests and final site visits guarantee that the structure aligns with the proposed design and meets the necessary standards.



With Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code in effect, British Columbia takes a significant step toward energy-efficient housing. Embracing performance-based standards, rather than the traditional prescriptive approach, sets the stage for a sustainable future. Establishing a strong relationship with a Registered Energy Advisor is essential for meeting performance targets and optimizing the building systems. At Shoreline Building Performance, we're proud to serve all major markets in British Columbia and are excited to join you in creating a greener, more energy-efficient future.