Regional leaders question suitability of Energy Step Code for rural homes

Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako directors worry traditional log homes could be prohibited

Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako

Aspects of the BC Energy Step Code are out of step with the realities of northern rural living, say regional leaders.

Directors with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) discussed on April 28 some aspects of that code, which is aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of homes.

The code lays out five graduated steps of increasing efficiency in building construction that lead to “net zero ready” by 2032. It is expected to become the mandatory energy compliance code later in the year.

In their meeting in Burns Lake, RDBN directors shared critical views on the code in relation to a letter that RDBN board chair Gerry Thiessen wrote to attorney general David Eby, who is also the Minister Responsible for Housing.

Chris Newell, director for Electoral Area G, said a possible second letter to the provincial government should explain the cultural connection that many rural communities have with post and beam log houses.

“I don’t want to get stuck with laws that make the way we live illegal,” Newell said. “(The code) will favour modular homes. But that’s not part of rural culture and it means those homes aren’t built locally and people aren’t employed locally building them and they might not even be built in our province or country.”

Some directors took aim at the code’s airtightness protocol.

Under that measure, energy advisors test homes to ensure “a continuous air barrier is considered throughout the design process, which minimizes air leakage and thus heating/cooling demand,” according to the BC Energy Step Code Handbook for Building Officials.

Newell and other directors expressed concern that traditional log homes would fail that test and their future construction could be curtailed, while the region still faces a housing shortage.

Cyndi Lauze, District of Vanderhoof director, said she was disappointed when she learned that a lot near her house was sold and that there are plans for a modular home project.

“This Step Code is being implemented in the fall (and) I think it’s something that we really need to look at as communities as well as individually because we have a housing crisis, and it’s not going to support the local culture and the local reality in the north,” she said.

Clint Lambert, Electoral Area E director questioned the government’s authority to implement the code.

“Isn’t this terrible overreach to tell me what kind of home I can build on my own land?” he asked. “If I can afford this kind of a house that’s what I will build. For them to tell me I can’t build a house unless it’s built this way, who are they?”

Mark Parker, Electoral Area D director, said he largely supports the Step Code as a way of reducing carbon footprints, but thinks some of its policies should be modified.

“We need to…acknowledge that there are benefits to the energy part of the step code, (but) there’s research that shows that these modular homes and panels result in more pollution, more greenhouse gases, more everything than renewable resources.”

A motion was carried to defer more discussion on the Step Code and the letter to the government to the next meeting.