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Eight BC communities call for greener building standards

Eight B.C. municipalities have called on the province to improve energy efficiency standards for homes and buildings as part of a strategy to create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We believe there is room to go beyond the existing province-wide regulations on new and existing buildings, and in general, we would prefer to see province-wide implementation of green building policy instead of a community-by-community approach," states a letter to Minister of State for Building Code Renewal Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of Energy Steve Thomson, and Minister of Community Stephanie Cadieux.

The letter notes that the province has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050, and argues that improving the energy performance of buildings not only among the easiest strategies for meeting that target-- but also one that will generate thousands of new jobs.

But an outdated provincial building code stands in the way of creating those jobs, and hinders the opportunity to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions, the letter suggests.

"Although local governments in B.C. are taking action to reduce emissions and are committed to increasing those efforts, our research so far indicates that local governments have limited ability to regulate new and existing buildings given the current jurisdiction," the letter states.

The letter urges the province to explore and implement:

• Setting higher energy efficiency standards for new homes and buildings, beyond the planned changes to the B.C. building code,

• Requiring existing homes and buildings to meet minimum energy performance standards, and

• Requiring that some portion of the energy needs for new homes and buildings be met by renewable energy that is produced on-site or in the community.

"While these regulations have been used extensively in other jurisdictions, we recognize that further work will be required to customize them to the B.C. context," the letter continues.

Campbell River, City of North Vancouver, Cowichan Valley Regional District, City of Dawson Creek, City of Fort St. John, Regional District of Nanaimo, District of Tofino and the Resort Municipality of Whistler are the eight municipalities that signed the letter. All are partners in an project called Green Building Leaders.

The Canada Green Building Council estimates that 40 per cent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions result from the construction and operation of buildings.

Homes and buildings account for up to 72 per cent of electricity consumption, 50 per cent of energy consumption, 40 per cent or raw material use, and 14 per cent of potable water consumption, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, which argues that upgrading existing buildings is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing energy use.

Monte Paulsen reports on green building and carbon reduction for the non-profit Tyee Solutions Society.

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