General Contractors and the BC Energy Step Code

Learn more about how BC Housing is helping builders prepare for new energy efficiency requirements.

Overview

Since 2008, the Province of British Columbia has made energy efficiency a BC Building Code objective. In 2017, B.C. committed to reach net-zero energy-ready by 2032. To help achieve this goal, the Province established the BC Energy Step Code.

About the BC Energy Step Code

The BC Energy Step Code is a building standard. It’s designed to help government and industry create a future in which all new construction in B.C. is net-zero energy-ready by 2032. The regulation sets performance targets for new construction and groups them into “steps” that apply across various building types and regions of the province. The Lower Steps are straightforward to meet; the Upper Steps are more ambitious.

To demonstrate compliance with the BC Energy Step Code, a builder must prove to local building officials that the building meets or exceeds the performance requirements set out in each step. These requirements cover building envelope, airtightness, and equipment and systems.

Unlike previous green building standards, which had a prescriptive approach, the BC Energy Step Code is based on building performance. This performance-based approach sets a desired outcome and allows the design and building team to decide how to achieve the results.

Although adopting the BC Energy Step Code is currently optional for local governments, the Province will soon introduce stricter energy efficiency standards. By the end of 2022, all new buildings in B.C. will be required to be 20% more efficient than the current BC Building Code. In response to the new requirements, BC Housing is developing BC Energy Step Code training for builders. The training will support builders in adopting new practices that will meet consumer needs and lead to improved quality of residential design and construction.  

New Condition for General Contractor Licence Renewal

Licensed general contractors are required to meet prescribed qualifications. These qualifications include demonstrating an understanding of the purpose and application of the BC Building Code, of which the BC Energy Step Code is a part.

To ensure builders in British Columbia are prepared for the changes, a new condition will be added to licenses. The new condition will stipulate a two-year period to demonstrate competency in building to Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code.

This condition will be added when a licence is renewed and will come into effect with licenses that expire September 30, 2022, onwards.

While this condition will be added to all licenses, there may be exemptions for those who have already been building to Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code, or who have already completed relevant training. Further details on exemptions are outlined below.

BC Energy Step Code Training

For those requiring training to meet the new condition, BC Housing has developed eight training modules to ensure builders are prepared to build to Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code:

  • BC Energy Step Code Overview and Requirements
  • Meeting the BC Energy Step Code by Design
  • Building Science for the BC Energy Step Code
  • Building Envelope Options for the BC Energy Step Code
  • Air Barriers for the BC Energy Step Code
  • Mechanical Systems for the BC Energy Step Code
  • Building Envelope Quality Assurance and Quality Control
  • BC Energy Step Code Project Management
     

Read the BC Energy Step Code Training Overview for full details on the learning objectives of each module.

BC Housing is also working with other professional associations and educators who provide Step Code training to compile a list of equivalent courses. This will ensure builders have a variety of training options available to meet the condition.

Meeting the Licence Condition

Once the condition is added to your licence, you can access the builder portal and for each module you will be asked to indicate whether you meet any of the exemption criteria, have completed approved training or plan to complete approved training over the next two years. You will be required to provide supporting evidence for verification. Once you have submitted your responses on how you intend to meet the condition, you will be contacted by a BC Housing representative to obtain the supporting documentation.

Exemptions

Licensees who can demonstrate they have previously built energy efficient homes or have taken equivalent training may be exempt from taking BC Energy Step Code training.

  • Previously built energy efficient homes: to be granted this exemption, you must demonstrate that you have built a minimum of three Part 9 buildings that meet Step 3 or higher of the BC Energy Step Code within the last five years. You will need to provide the energy compliance report for the home to verify you’ve achieved this standard. If the home is not registered under your licence, you will need to provide evidence to demonstrate you were the general contractor.
  • Equivalent training: to be granted this exemption, you must provide completion certificates for courses that BC Housing has reviewed and determined is equivalent to the eight training modules. We are working with education providers who offer relevant training to review existing courses that may satisfy the BC Energy Step Code training modules. The BC Energy Step Code: Past and Current Equivalent Courses document provides an overview of some courses that have been considered equivalent to the BC Housing modules. Please note that some courses may only cover a few modules but not all eight. In that circumstance, you may be eligible to a partial exemption and would only be expected to take training in the modules you haven’t covered.

Completing training

For licensees who are not exempt or only partially exempt through equivalent training, you will have to satisfy the Step Code condition through taking approved training. Approved training will be available from a range of education providers. Once we have the complete list, the Education Registry will be updated to include a list of approved courses with a new search function to easily identify modules.

The training can also be used to satisfy the annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements of the licence, if taken by the CPD nominee. We recommend having the CPD nominee complete the training, to ensure builders do not incur additional expenses. However, there is no requirement that it must be the CPD nominee. Training and exemptions can be satisfied by any Persons in Control of the Company (PICCs) listed on the licence and may be split between PICCs.

Read our BC Energy Step Code Licence Condition: Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about completing BC Energy Step Code training and the condition being added to licences. We will provide further updates on education and meeting the condition shortly.