On Tuesday, Kamloops council authorized staff to work with the BC Real Estate Foundation to submit a grant for funds to assess and implement the BC Energy Step Code.
The voluntary provincial initiative aims to transform the housing market, with incremental steps toward net-zero, energy-ready buildings by 2032.
"In my mind, we have to do this," Coun. Arjun Singh said. "The voluntary part of it gets me a little worried."
Zachary May, director of building codes and standards with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, explained in a council workshop the province's long-term strategy to improve efficiency in new construction and reduce greenhouse gases. Buildings account for about one-third of the city's greenhouse gases.
"We have to do something and we believe the Energy Step Code is the most significant thing we can do to address this challenge," May said.
Lower steps would see modest improvements to efficiency and are relatively straightforward to meet, council heard, while higher steps are more ambitious, reaching up to 40 per cent more efficient than current BC Building Code standards. Airtightness testing and performance requirements for building envelopes are among aspects of the code, which uses targets instead of building material requirements to allow builders to be creative while also held accountable.
"Just telling builders what materials to use doesn't allow creative building," May said.
May said the code also aims to improve industry consistency, which currently has multiple third-party programs in place for those wishing to build efficiently.
The province will eventually mandate adoption of net-zero, energy-ready buildings, council heard, but is encouraging early adoption.
"Each local government is going to chart out their own path," May said.
City of Kamloops sustainability services supervisor Glen Cheetham said the BC Step Code fits within sustainability objectives. Goals include decreasing community energy use by 20 per cent by 2020 and by 50 per cent by 2050 and to reduce residential-based greenhouse-gas emissions to .9 tonnes/capita by 2020 and community-wide greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 per cent below 2007 by 2020.
"We're not on track to meet those targets," Cheetham said, noting they will need to be revisited.
In consulting with Thompson Rivers University, the Kamloops and District Real Estate Association and the Canadian Home Builders Association Central Interior Cheetham said all the organizations are aware of the BC Energy Step Code.
He said TRU expressed interest in integrating the code into curriculum, but the CHBA-CI expressed concern increased costs would fall to builders, who would in turn have to pass the costs onto consumers in an already pricey housing market.
Kamloops Coun. Tina Lange asked what incentives the province is providing to bring builders up to speed.
May noted a multi-sector advisory body called the Energy Step Code Council, which was established in 2016 to resolve issues as municipalities adopt the code. BC Housing is also putting out guides for builders.
"We're doing a lot," May said.
Multiple communities throughout the province have already adopted the code.