Efficiency Canada’s ‘Codes4Climate Advocacy Toolkit’ aims to fill national leadership vacuum

This blog was originally posted by Daily Commercial News on May 11, 2021.
Written by John Bleasby.

An energy efficiency advocacy organization based at Carleton University in Ottawa has decided to speak out and make its voice heard in the debate over future national energy code guidelines. The timing is significant, with the 2020 National Building Code finalization now delayed until late this year.

Efficiency Canada describes itself as “the national voice for an energy efficient economy.” It released its Codes4Climate Advocacy Toolkit online recently. The website “provides information and tools that advocates can leverage to help their municipality better prepare for the adoption of the model codes in the coming years through grassroots building energy code campaigns.”

The toolkit is extremely comprehensive, offering full background into the processes involved when developing energy standards within building codes; the terms and definitions related to the net-zero energy ready model codes; an overview of different types of building codes and the benefits they provide; an outline of the national model code development and adoption process; tips to make the case for model codes adoption, and higher building performance standards; and templates and tools to advance adoption efforts and get people engaged.

Any industry, environmental or government stakeholder surveying the toolkit’s website will come away with a detailed overview of what issues are at stake and ways to set about making change.

Kevin Lockhart, efficient buildings lead with Efficiency Canada, explained his organization’s initiative is important at this time due a “leadership vacuum” at the highest levels that has created impatience and frustration.

“Municipalities, in particular, and also building advocates, are recognizing that there is a delay between the top-down policy and regulation and action on the ground. They want to move forward on climate action.”

Efficiency Canada points out dozens of countries and sub-national governments already have energy codes in place.

“They offer an effective long-term energy efficiency approach and, through tiered codes, provide a pathway of incremental targets that take regional differences into account and provide a flexible framework for the provinces and territories.”

Energy code standards based on tiers, similar to the B.C. Step Code, are the model currently under consideration for Canada.

“Tiered codes make sure that everyone in the buildings industry moves toward increased energy performance together and competes on the same terms,” says Efficiency Canada. “By raising the minimum standard of construction incrementally, tiered codes raise the energy performance of the entire sector, but also make it possible for advanced builders and designers to build towards higher energy performance levels.”

However, not all industry stakeholders are onboard with tiered codes. Lockhart admits there are pockets of strong resistance.

“There are some parts of the building sector struggling with the level of ambition and the ‘how,’” he said. “However, I think we know the ‘how.’ We’ve seen other building centres do it. So in fact, we can reach a high level of efficiency in our buildings. But I think what might be the struggle is how do we do it at scale.”

Lockhart also feels there needs to be increased input from what he calls “climate activists.” Yet, while their input has somewhat increased at the sub-committee level, it may also create tensions in terms of determining how ambitious energy codes should be, causing further delays in the code process.

“We need political direction to start those processes,” he says.

Efficiency Canada hopes their Code4Climate Advocacy Toolkit will trigger collaborative action among those concerned about Canada’s GHG emissions related to construction. Voluntary action is important at this point, Lockhart says.

“The voluntary standards set the bar high and give industry time to prepare. By elevating the stringency of the codes, it’s a symbiotic relationship where they can set the standards ahead and codes to catch up and create norms of higher building standards and performance.”