Sooke politicians won’t step up to energy code anytime soon

Several factors behind decison to hold off on building code program

Both Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area won’t implementing the new B.C. Energy Step Code anytime soon, say local politicians.

The Step Code is an amendment to the B.C. Building Code announced last year that establishes performance-based energy efficiency requirements for new residential and commercial construction with the ultimate goal that all new buildings will be “net-zero energy ready” by 2032.

The term describes a building that consumes an amount of energy that is roughly equal to the renewable energy produced on site. The renewable energy is often produced through solar panels or wind turbines.

The Capital Regional District Juan de Fuca Electoral Area won’t be adopting the program now because of the impact it would have on housing prices, and how much longer it would take to get building permits issued, said local CRD director Mike Hicks.

“The code could add between $55,000 and $110,000 to the cost of a new house,” he said. “And in addition to the building permit process now, it would require air tests and inspections be made on buildings.”

Hicks believes the Juan de Fuca area would get far less attention than the more urban areas by inspectors, causing the building permit processes to be delayed.

“It’s not practical for rural areas. We already struggle in this area to get building permits done in time, and this would add a whole other element of delay, because it doesn’t make sense that an inspector would come out and do one house in our area in a day when they could do 40 in Victoria,” he said.

Sooke officials said they do not know enough about the program yet to say whether it would be effective, or if they would want to introduce it.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said the district’s planning department is expected to take a look at the program, and bring it to council for further discussion.

“In terms of Sooke and our next step, we’re not quite there yet. We are just a bit caught up with other issues right now,” Tait said.

“I know home buyers today are looking for more energy efficient homes because it would potentially lead to savings over time, so it’s definitely a topic we want to add to our conversation.”

Hicks said he wants to wait and see how it works in other municipalities first, such as Saanich and Victoria where he thinks the code would be better suited.

“We’re not going to adopt it until we see it’s welcomed by our builders and our residents,” he said. “We support the energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gases and we will watch how things go, but I think we’ll be one of the last to adopt this code.”

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