Vancouver considers new policies to make low-rise buildings more energy efficient

Feb 3 2017, 1:16 am

Residential homes in low-rise buildings could be made more energy efficient if Vancouver City Council approves a staff-recommended plan for improved building codes.

New low-rise buildings, defined by the City of Vancouver as buildings under seven storeys in height, could be required to build more insulation and invest in low-carbon energy systems. This includes thicker walls and high-performance windows, and more efficient heaters, boilers, furnaces, and fireplaces.

Such measures will reduce emissions from low-rise buildings by between 40% and 55%, according to a staff report.

City claims “negligible construction cost”

The municipal government claims the implementation of the new requirements will increase market sale costs for condo buildings by $2 to $4 per square foot, and if the purchase price is reduced it could increase the 25-year mortgage payment cost by$11 per month. With the savings and mortgage factored in, this results in monthly savings of $9, approximately.

For townhouse buildings, market sale costs will increase by an average of $4 per square foot. A resulting mortgage payment increase of $27 could be offset by $31 in monthly energy cost savings.

“Negligible construction cost increases are expected and it is estimated that the modest if any increase in monthly mortgage costs would be more than offset by energy utility bill reductions,” reads the staff report.

Other benefits from the new regulations could potentially include lower street noise and improved thermal comfort and indoor air quality.

Large new single-family homes

The report also recommends making large new single-family homes more energy efficient by requiring homes over 3,500 square feet to be designed to have a total greenhouse gas footprint equal to that of a 3,500-square-foot home.

“The larger the home above this threshold, the greater leadership in improved design, better building envelopes, and improved equipment that will be required to comply with the carbon pollution cap,” the report reads.

The number of new homes affected by this proposed policy is expected to be relatively minimal as it targets luxury homes. In contrast, the average new single-family home size in both the Westside and Eastside areas is 2,600 square feet.

“Large luxury homes have the opportunity and ability to demonstrate energy efficiency leadership,” the report continues. “Greenhouse gas and energy modelling has shown that reducing greenhouse gases for homes of this size is straightforward with commonly used local methods and technology. ”

City Council is scheduled to review the report on Tuesday, February 7, and if approved the new building codes will come into effect on March 1, 2018.