Energy efficiency targets adjusted upward

Ontario's new building code to introduce heightened standards in 2017
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
By Barbara Carss

Ontario’s new building code introduces unprecedented requirements for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and peak electrical demand. Once it comes into force in January 2014, newly constructed buildings or additions to existing buildings will have to conform with performance standards set out in Part 12, Resource Conservation and Environmental Integrity, which focuses on energy and water efficiency.

The new code also continues an incremental adoption of heightened energy efficiency standards. Beginning in January 2017, newly constructed large buildings or additions to existing buildings must achieve at least 13 per cent better energy efficiency than the current requirements. This steps up from the benchmark established in the code in January 2012, stipulating energy performance that equates to a 25 per cent improvement over Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings, 1997, or a five per cent improvement over the ASHRAE 90.1-2010 energy standard, which is referenced in some other codes and building bylaws throughout North America.

A new version of the code’s supplementary standard, SB-10, which sets out energy efficiency requirements for both larger buildings covered in Part 3 of the code and smaller non-residential buildings addressed in Part 9, is also in progress to provide builders and designers with both prescribed and performance-related measures for complying with the 2017 mandate. (Meanwhile, an updated version of SB-12, which applies to lowrise residential buildings no greater than 600 square metres, was released in mid-March.)

“Part 12 is something of a pioneer,” says Cengiz Kahramanoglu, a building code advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s Building & Development Branch. “In terms of building code regulations, I’m really not aware of any other North American jurisdiction that explicitly speaks to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or peak demand reduction.”

This means standards will now be specifically stated – for example, as allowable CO2 emissions from a building or allowable peak watts. However, any building that complies with the code’s prescriptive energy requirements should automatically meet the standards.

Ontario’s phase out of coal-fired generating plants and increasing proportion of renewable electricity supply is already indirectly shrinking the carbon footprint of buildings.

“The emission factor for electricity has been dropping really quite rapidly so it is now only about 150 grams per kilowatt-hour (kWh), and it is projected to drop below 70 grams per kWh by 2017,” says Bob Bach, who serves as vice-chair (energy) of the Ontario Building Code conservation advisory council. “This will make it easier to meet the maximum GHG emissions or, alternatively, the standards in the code might be adjusted downward.”

Similarly, energy management experts advise there are plenty of options for achieving the pending 2017 energy efficiency standards. As an example, Sustainable Buildings Canada, a national non-profit research and support network for high-performance buildings and houses, has devised an archetypal condominium, and conducts seminars and charrettes to help developers and designers consider the wide range of possibilities.

“We have yet to fail to demonstrate how they can meet the program benchmark of 25 per cent better than code,” says Bach. “Another 13 per cent shouldn’t be difficult at all. In some cases, it may add to construction costs but in (others) it doesn’t.”

Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management magazines.

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