Energy efficiency of buildings an important election issue

While pandemic-related health policies are front and centre in this election campaign, it’s important not to lose sight of other critical issues that will impact us long after a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. Climate change is a crisis that is not going away, as demonstrated by recent wildfires. The British Columbia Real Estate Association recognizes the importance of this issue, and has a specific recommendation to address greenhouse gas emissions from our current building stock.

While proposed changes to the 2022 BC Building Code will set higher standards for energy efficiency in new buildings, much can be done to address emissions from existing buildings. By providing incentives so that building owners can make informed decisions on energy retrofits, the government can accomplish many of its climate change goals, stimulate economic activity and create new job opportunities.

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There are already financial incentives available from governments, utilities, financial institutions and suppliers. BCREA is looking to the provincial government for long-term, sustained funding to support property owners now and into the future, and those incentive programs are expected to be available for owners of existing commercial, purpose-built rental, multi-family strata and single-family properties.

This is a timely initiative, as home needs are evolving and many homeowners are considering renovations. Because of COVID-19, homes also function as offices, schools and primary entertainment centres. But there’s more to consider than immediate need.

When planning a renovation, property owners should also consider energy efficiency. The objective should be to improve air tightness of the building envelope, reduce heat loss and improve the efficiency of mechanical systems. Current incentive programs allow for experts (energy modelers) to assess the building and determine the best combination of energy efficiency measures (windows upgrade, additional insulation, improved air tightness or upgraded mechanical systems, for example) to get the most bang for the buck. This also includes accessing the best package of incentives within the property owner’s budget. Having competent contractors to complete the work is an absolute necessity, as well as monitoring the effectiveness of the improvements.

BCREA believes that the most progressive, sustainable step the government can take for the real estate sector is to continue these incentive programs, expand them where possible, and develop a public outreach program for consumers and homeowners to educate and inspire action. When more property owners make informed decisions to reduce their carbon footprints and cut energy costs, the entire province benefits.

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