City of Vancouver to require air cooling in new homes starting in 2025

May 20 2022, 12:13 am

With a warming climate, and the possibility of worsening and more frequent summer heatwaves, there is a need for homes to be equipped with building systems that moderate and cool indoor temperatures.

Starting in 2025, builders will be required to install mechanical air cooling equipment in all new multi-family homes within the City of Vancouver.

This policy was approved by Vancouver City Council earlier this week as part of a broader strategy of growing the municipal government’s zero-emissions buildings requirements.

According to the City, mechanical cooling will increase overall construction costs by up to 3.5%, and the costs are lower when mechanized cooling is part of a terminal heat pump, as opposed to independent heating and cooling systems. The City notes all-new condominiums and most rental housing developments are already incorporating cooling.

“The cost of not doing these mitigation measures will be much higher,” Cecilia Sierra-Heredia, a Health Sciences lecturer specializing in environmental health at Simon Fraser University, previously told Daily Hive Urbanized in an interview, referring to the hundreds of people who died across BC in the historic heatwave event of Summer 2021.

She adds that regulators in BC could learn from the standards of Ontario, where cooling systems are a requirement given their sweltering summer temperatures.

“We saw the impact on mental health, cardiovascular health, and respiratory health… in the sense, we’d be saving money if we prepare for this climate change heatwave in the future,” she said.

In addition to the cooling requirement, City Council has approved regulations that require a more superior filtered ventilation air standard. Beginning in 2023, new buildings must use MERV 13 filters to protect residents from the health impacts of air pollution from transportation and wildfires.

The City has experienced 60 days of air quality advisories since 2015 due to high air particulates, mainly smoke from wildfires.

Sierra-Heredia adds improved air filtration also protects residents from the worsening pollen allergy season due to climate change.

The cooling and air filtration strategies are measures under the City’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, with the green building design components also approved by City Council this week.

By January 1, 2023, all permanently installed new air condition systems in existing detached homes must function to provide both low-carbon heating and cooling. Plumbed and/or hard wired air conditioning must have an electric two-directional heat pump that also provides zero emissions heat.

Also starting on January 1, home renovations with a construction value of over $250,000 will be required to electrify their existing space heating and hot water systems, reaching the same requirement as new home construction. Exceptions will be made for lower-income households earning under $50,000 annually.

Other building design regulation changes include measures to provide support for owners of existing multi-family buildings, detached houses, and commercial buildings to install heat pumps, explore options to remove gas for cooking and fireplaces in new residential buildings, prioritizing electrification over renewable gas in new and existing buildings, reducing carbon pollution from large existing office and retail buildings by 40% by 2030 and requiring zero emissions by 2040, and creating a process to track and limit emissions from large existing commercial buildings.

Moreover, the City is striving to reduce carbon pollution from all new buildings to nearly zero by 2025, and 90% compared to 2007 levels.

Additionally, new requirements that will be a first for North America will limit carbon pollution from building materials and reduce waste that goes to the landfill.

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