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Canadian National Building Code does little to support energy efficiency in houses

Wednesday, October 3rd 2007 10:02:21am

Media Release – For Immediate Release

Canadian National Building Code does little to support energy efficiency in houses

New report by Consumers Council of Canada recommends adopting energy efficiency as a core objective to protect home buyers and fight global warming

(Ottawa, October 3, 2007)  The Consumers Council of Canada in a new report released today identifies the energy efficiency winners and losers under Canada’s Building Code. Called Energy Efficiency in Building Codes, the report outlines how the majority of Canadian provinces and territories have inadequate energy efficiency provisions in their building codes for houses, and provides a series of recommendations based on their extensive research to help protect home buyers from rising energy costs and fight global warming.

The National Building Code, which does not consider energy efficiency or even incorporate a minimum level of insulation and thermal efficiency for windows, has been adopted by Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories. The only provinces with building codes that consider energy efficiency in new house construction are British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and to a lesser extent Alberta.

Joan Huzar, past-President of the Consumers Council of Canada (the Council) and current Chair of the Council’s Energy Committee, observed, “New home buyers in many parts of Canada are being ripped off. We live in a climate where there are hot summers and cold winters. Home buyers in some jurisdictions are being told that their new home meets the building code, while actual levels of insulation and the quality of windows used in the construction of the home are woefully inadequate and often result in huge energy bills.”

Added Ms. Huzar, “Builders complain about the cost of installing energy efficiency measures in new homes, saying that new home affordability will be sacrificed if they are required to build to energy efficient standards. But if new homeowners can’t afford to cool and heat their homes because builders didn’t build for energy efficiency, then what does it matter?  Builders build, but homeowners are paying the heating and cooling bills.”

In addition to protecting consumers from rising energy costs, the report highlights that energy efficiency, as a key policy and program objective, will help governments across Canada fight global warming. Energy use in Canada’s residential sector is responsible for approximately 17 % of Canada’s heat trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week, the Council passed a series of recommendations and finalized their report on the National Building Code which contains data from four recent public opinion polls indicating a significant majority of Canadian consumers strongly support greater energy efficiency. Both the Report and the Council recommendations have been transmitted to the appropriate Federal, Territorial and Provincial governments.

In the report, available at www.consumerscouncil.com, the Council recommends that:

1. Energy efficiency in houses be adopted as a core objective within the National Building Code of Canada for inclusion in the 2010 code; and

2. The National Research Council of Canada immediately update the Model National Energy Code for Houses for inclusion as a reference in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada.

Ken Elsey, President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance (CEEA), commended the Council for their attention to protecting the interests of Canadian consumers. “Just because a house is built to meet the technical tests of a building code doesn’t mean it is adequate from an energy efficiency perspective. These recommendations will help ensure that Canadians are getting the best from their builders and Government.”

Mr. Elsey noted the jurisdictions which have essentially adopted, without change, the National Building Code which contains zero provisions for energy efficiency, and singled out Canada’s far north and the lack of oversight and regulation for buildings in the Territories. “Many homes in the Territories are built by the Federal Government and are not required to meet any Building Code energy efficiency standard. This is completely unacceptable.”

Ms. Huzar concluded by saying, “The Council assessment of public opinion polling indicates that consumers overwhelmingly believe in, and want, energy efficiency standards in their Building Codes. The next edition of the National Building Code is due in 2010, so now is the time for citizens, politicians, officials and regulators to begin the effort to ensure the new Code reflects the interest of a majority of Canadians, not just home builders. The time has come to protect consumers from unnecessarily high heating and cooling bills, cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy consumption.”  

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To arrange interviews or for more information, contact:

Don Huff, e|c|o, 416-972-7404, cell 416-805-7720 (on-site in Ottawa)

The Consumers Council of Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization providing a consumer voice and helping business and government manage today’s consumer issues.  The Council works collaboratively to promote consumers’ rights and responsibilities for an efficient, equitable and effective marketplace.  The Council is funded through membership and project work with a variety of private and public sector partners.  (www.consumerscouncil.com)

The Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, a broad based, not-for-profit organization, was established (1995) to respond to the lack of a coordinated multi-stakeholder effort to promote energy efficiency in Canada, leading to enhanced competitiveness and improved environmental protection. The Alliance works in partnership with manufacturers, utilities, governments, builders, labour, consumer groups, and environmental organizations to facilitate the adoption of energy efficiency measures in Canada. The Alliance is supported through fees and project contributions from members.  (www.energyefficiency.org)



Backgrounder (October 3, 2007)

The Energy Efficiency in Building Codes research brief and full report can be viewed at www.consumerscouncil.com.

Consumers strongly believe energy efficiency is important and want mandatory energy efficiency within building standards

•Canadian consumers strongly support (86%) mandatory minimum levels of energy efficiency for single and multi family dwellings. –New Home Buyers Study, 2007, Consumers Council of Canada

•Canadian consumers support (72%) the inclusion of energy efficiency provisions in the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) that could act as a model for provincial codes. –New Home Buyers Study, 2007, Consumers Council of Canada

•New home buyers feel that energy efficiency plays an important role (86%) in their decision to purchase a new home. –New Home Buyers Study, 2007, Consumers Council of Canada

•79% of Canadians would be willing to pay more for purchasing an energy efficiency home. –New Home Buyers Study, 2007, Consumers Council of Canada

Energy efficiency is good policy

•Governments across Canada have identified climate change, energy efficiency and protection of the environment as key policy and program objectives. Building Codes are among the most powerful and cost effective policy instruments available to government to deliver on these objectives.

•Energy efficiency is the foundation for a government developing a strong energy reduction platform.

•Consumers expect governments to enact building codes that include provisions that extend beyond the health and safety of the occupant to also embrace the health and safety of the environment.

•High energy costs are making life difficult for families… the Green Communities Association calls the problem "energy poverty."

•People who inhabit an energy efficient building will have more funds available to pay back any cost to upgrade. -Dr. D.A. Arguelles, Director and Executive Secretary (CNAE), Mexico

•Since houses built today have a 100-year lifespan and since energy prices will surely rise, the economic and environmental case to build better houses is now even more compelling. -Kim Pressnail, Professor, University of Toronto Department of Civil Engineering

•Energy conservation and efficiency are critical
components for the future of sustainable energy.

•Energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to extend our world’s energy supplies…. -Alliance to Save Energy


Provincial building codes which include energy efficiency provisions

•There are five provinces that include some energy efficiency provisions within their provincial building codes. The other five provinces and three territories adopt the NBC verbatim. Ontario, Manitoba , Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia are the five provinces that include energy efficient provisions in the building Code.

•Ontario’s code, unlike all others, lists energy efficiency and conservation as a primary objective. Ontario also has two future dates set already set for the adoption of increased standards for below grade insulation (2008) and the adoption of Ener-Guide 80 (2010).

•Manitoba has included energy efficiency in its building code since 1976, with revised standards being published in 1998. The province is also set to adopt a new green building policy no later than 2009.

•British Columbia’s code was updated in 1992 to include minimum insulation values but has not been updated since. Reports have confirmed that BC is scheduled to increase energy efficiency standards in the near future, to the tune of 25% better than the Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings.

•Quebec’s building code includes standards for minimum insulation values and is currently working on new energy efficiency standards, but none have been completed as of yet.

•Alberta does have minimum recommendations for envelope insulation values integrated currently and more improvements are expected in the near future.