Greening the BC Building Code is an ongoing initiative. The current focus is on reducing buildings’ energy and water use:
- Solar hot water ready homes (where practical) in 2011
- Code requirement for high-efficiency toilets (including dual-flush) and urinals in new construction in 2011
- Code requirements to support increased use of non-potable water for toilet flushing and sub-surface irrigation in 2011
- Code changes to improve the energy performance of both small scale housing and larger, more complex residential, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings.
Green building supports sustainable communities through the entire building lifecycle: location, site, building exterior, building interior, operational attributes and changes of use or building demolition. Green site development practices focus on surface water reduction (for example, through porous paving); sewage and grey water systems that support water recycling; low- or no-irrigation landscaping and reduced impacts on the local ecology (for example, small building footprints that increase green space and feature less surface parking).
Green building exteriors may include energy-conserving elements such as building orientation to make maximum use of natural light; energy-efficient building envelopes, summer solar shading to reduce the need for air conditioning; and efficient, targeted exterior lighting.
Building interiors may include green attributes such as smaller, occupant-controlled heating and lighting zones; efficient lighting systems; low consumption plumbing fixtures and use of non-reactive, low emission building and finishing materials.
Why Build Green
Many people, in British Columbia and throughout the world, are increasingly concerned about our impact on the environment. Energy consumption is an area in which significant improvements can be made.
Residential space heating and cooling, water heating and the operation of appliances, electronic equipment and lighting account for approximately 17 per cent of secondary energy use in B.C. (Opportunities for Local Government Action on Energy Efficient Buildings, 2006).
Green building practices can have a positive impact on energy consumption. They can also contribute to the comfort and health of building occupants and make buildings better places to work and live. Green building carries economic benefits that offset the costs of planning, designing and building green. These benefits include lower operating costs for energy and water use, waste disposal and maintenance and higher property values.
Green Building is Measurable
A number of green rating systems have been developed that are used nationally and internationally. They include LEED, EnerGuide, Green Star, Green Globes, CASBEE, BREAM, Built Green and others. Each of these rating systems depends upon tests and other evidence of the performance of individual design and building elements; for example, it is possible to analyze the energy efficiency of a new house by conducting a blower door test.
What are Other Provinces and Countries Doing?
Governments have generally focused on mandating green standards for publicly owned or publicly funded buildings. Many jurisdictions in North America and abroad, have established voluntary green building standards, along with incentive programs such as expedited permit processes, grants and marketing services to encourage developers to build green. Some governments have established mandatory green building requirements for all new buildings, including residential buildings.
There appears to be a growing trend toward mandatory green building requirements among governments that previously implemented incentive programs, and also toward requirements for privately-owned and residential buildings where previously there had been only requirements for publicly-owned or commercial buildings.
Even where not required to do so, some builders and developers voluntarily seek green certification (for example, Built Green or LEED) for their residential and commercial projects and use this distinction to market their buildings.