The Greening of Vancouver

Both the Province and the City of Vancouver have been hard at work over recent months drafting new 2012 codes, bylaws and policies that will lever energy consumption downward in both new and retrofitted buildings.   While the 2012 B.C. Building Code is scheduled for roll out by December 20th this year, the City of Vancouver is taking a little more time to finalize their new 2012 Vancouver Building Bylaw, expecting a launch by late Spring or Summer, 2013.

What's up for developers and builders in the year ahead in the City? With an overall mandate to become the Greenest City in North America, with all new buildings reaching effective Carbon Neutrality by 2020, Vancouver is attacking the challenge with a graduated approach to tougher building regulations, utilizing both their own Building Bylaw (VBBL) and an expanded Green Rezoning Policy that already seeks LEED Gold Certification for all major (Part 3) buildings requiring rezoning. 

The 2012 VBBL itself will unfold higher mandatory standards for 1 and 2 dwelling buildings in terms of higher building and window insulation, higher space and water heating efficiencies, electric car outlets, and improved fireplace combustion rates for wood burning fireplaces.   For larger Part 3 buildings, energy efficiency compliance will be enforced at an even higher level, per ASHRAE 90.1 - 2010 standards, which can be loosely interpreted as a 15% increase in efficiency from the previously applied 2007 standard. 

Through proposed changes to the section of the Building Bylaw that deals with existing buildings, building upgrade permit applications may trigger the application of a modest prescriptive menu of mandatory energy-related improvements as well (such as sub-metering, auto-dimmed parkade lighting, and others).   

In addition to Building Bylaw changes, the City is also introducing a voluntary 'Condo Retrofit Financing' Program as a pilot project to promote energy efficiency retrofits in multi-family buildings.   Through this program, buildings will undergo an engineering energy audit to identify a range of potential retrofits that could reduce energy costs with fast payback capital costs.  The program will then connect owners or strata councils with available utility incentives and attractive financing options to pursue.  At a minimum though, the City is encouraging the audits to simply provide 1 or 2 years of existing energy consumption data that may contribute to policy refinements in the future.

Perhaps the most interesting development of all so far, is the City's evolving Green Rezoning Policy, which could ultimately result in another VBBL Edition by 2015 - approximately halfway to their 2020 Carbon Neutral target.  For immediate implementation, the Policy will offer a new option for large projects to adopt a 'High Performance Building' standard, measured in terms of its Energy Utilization Index, or EUI.   A typical high rise residential building with an EUI of approximately 180± (or 180 KWHrs / m2 / year) under the ASHRAE 90.1 2010 standard, may have to reduce their index to 162-168, for example.   

As the City pushes toward 2020 though, we may see interim EUI targets by 2015 of perhaps 115 for residential, and 120 for commercial buildings.   By 2020, expect targets to fall below 100 with carbon loads as low as 5 Kg / m2 / year, compared to current loads in the order of 20 Kg / m2 / year. 

Gathering current and recent operating data to generate targets is, and will continue to be a priority for the City.   To date, much of the EUI data has been drawn from the United States, where the Energy Star program has compiled operating data for over 2000 buildings. 

While we all look forward to more creative ways to reduce our collective carbon footprint, given the fact that buildings are arguably responsible for half of the energy consumed by our civilized world, the expectation for each and every building developer and owner to contribute to a solution will increase rapidly in Vancouver over the decade ahead.


John Scott, Senior Partner
CEI Architecture
2012 NAIOP Vancouver Board Member

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