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Guide to Net Zero Homes in BC, Canada

By 2030, the BC Building Code will require all new homes and commercial buildings in British Columbia to meet the criteria for Net Zero.

This article explains what a Net Zero home is, outlines the features that set them apart from traditional homes, and explains the benefits of going Net Zero. We’ll also showcase some compelling programs, incentives & tax credits that British Columbians can access to move their homes towards the goal of Net Zero.

Net Zero Homes (BC, Canada Definition)

The Canadian Home Builders Association defines Net Zero homes as homes that produce as much clean energy as they consume on a yearly basis.

With innovative designs, materials, and technology, Net Zero homes are highly energy-efficient, boasting energy savings of up to 80% when compared to conventional new homes.

Renewable Energy

To offset your energy consumption, Net Zero homes utilize renewable energy systems to generate their own electricity and preserve natural resources.

In British Columbia, solar panels are the most common method.

It’s important to note that while wind energy can be a valuable green energy resource, it’s not considered a reliable source of electricity at smaller residential scales. For larger residential projects, wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps can play a more significant role in reaching Net Zero energy sustainability.

Efficient Building Orientation

Net Zero home design starts with situating your home to take advantage of natural light, wind, and rainfall patterns.

Passive Energy Capture, Heating & Lighting

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the sun’s energy is strongest from the south, towards the equator. To maximize light and heat intake for passive energy capture, heating, and lighting, it’s essential to focus on southern exposure.

To maximize the efficiency of a roof or ground mounted solar panel array, your roof should face towards the south and you should set your solar panels at a pitch of 1 degree for every degree of latitude you live north of the equator. For example, if you live in Kelowna, BC – a city with a latitude of 49.8N – you should angle your panels at a 49.8 degree slope so they face the sun head on.

If you live in a colder area and want to reduce the amount of energy you consume for lighting and heating, design your home so the rooms you spend the most time in during the day face towards the south.

On the other hand, if you live in a warmer climate and want to reduce the amount of energy you use for cooling, consider facing your most used rooms to the east.

Passive Cooling

To naturally cool your home by harnessing prevailing wind patterns, orient your house with its shortest dimension aligned in the direction of the wind. This layout allows for efficient cross-ventilation, enabling fresh air to flow seamlessly from one end of your home to the other.

Airtight Building Envelope

Your building envelope is the physical boundary of your home, which serves as the primary barrier between your interior living space and the external environment. A home’s building envelope includes components like exterior walls, roof assemblies, windows, doors, insulation, and air/vapor barriers – all working together to maintain thermal comfort, energy efficiency, and weather protection.

Energy efficient homes are designed with airtight building envelopes that minimize air leakage, resulting in a controlled indoor environment that uses less energy to stay warm in winter and cool in summer.

High-Performance Windows

Net Zero homes incorporate high-performance windows designed to optimize natural light and enhance energy efficiency.

Advanced technologies such as Low-E (low-emissivity) coatings on the glass or gas-filled window panes with multiple layers of glazing can help control heat transfer, minimizing heat gain from the sun’s radiant energy.

Some high-performance windows employ innovative electrochromic nanostructures that enable users to electronically control the tint or opacity of the glass. This technology enhances privacy, reduces glare, and optimizes natural light, allowing homeowners to create a more comfortable and energy-efficient living environment while minimizing the need for blinds or curtains.

High Performance Doors

Energy-efficient doors are typically constructed from materials with excellent insulation properties, such as fiberglass, insulated steel, or solid wood.

To help seal your building envelope, look for doors with low U-factor ratings and high R-values. The U-factor measures a door’s thermal conductivity, with lower U-factor indicating less heat transfer and better insulation. The R-value represents a door’s resistance to heat flow, with higher values indicating more resistance and better insulation.

Energy-Efficient Systems

In Net Zero home design, every major electrical component should have a high energy efficiency rating to help reduce. Net Zero home owners typically use Energy Star-certified appliances, advanced LED lighting, efficient mechanical systems, and low flow water fixtures that help minimize both water wastage and the energy used by water pumps.

Benefits of Net Zero Homes

Investing in a net zero energy home offers a myriad of benefits that extend far beyond traditional residential properties.

These homes are designed with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind, and they can make a significant positive impact on your lifestyle, finances, and the environment.

Here are some key benefits of choosing a net zero home:

  • Lower Energy Bills and Price Protection: Net zero homes drastically reduce energy expenses by producing as much energy as they consume, providing financial savings and shielding you from the volatility of rising energy costs.
  • Enhanced Comfort and Healthier Living Environment: Net zero homes feature advanced construction and top-tier HVAC systems, ensuring consistent indoor temperatures, better indoor air quality, and a quieter, allergen-free living environment.
  • Future-Proof Investment: By keeping ahead of the technological curve in your local real estate market, building Net Zero adds value to your financial investment.
  • Reduced Noise Disturbance: With excellent insulation and secure building envelopes, Net Zero homes minimize outside noise, creating a peaceful atmosphere that’s more enjoyable for your daily life.
  • Community Impact: Your choice to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home sets an example for your community, encouraging sustainability and responsible living practices.

The BC Building Code & National Building Code

British Columbia’s “Roadmap to 2030” will add a new carbon pollution standard to the BC Building Code by 2030 which will make all new buildings net zero carbon.

The BC Energy Step Code

The BC Energy Step Code is an energy efficiency framework for net zero homes introduced by the Province of British Columbia which is intended to help builders and local governments reach net zero targets before 2030.

The Step Code provides an alternative approach to the traditional prescriptive requirements of the BC Building Code. Instead of specifying detailed construction methods, it sets performance targets and allows builders to decide how to achieve them. Builders must use energy modeling and on-site testing to demonstrate compliance, and they are free to choose the best materials and construction methods.

The BC Energy Step Code establishes 5 different “steps” with increasing levels of energy performance, offering flexibility to builders while ensuring that new buildings meet energy efficiency standards.

The BC Energy Step Code

BC Step Code for Homes Target
Step 1 Improved energy efficiency
Step 2 10% more efficient
Step 3 20% more efficient
Step 4 40% more efficient
Step 5 Net Zero Ready

Local governments can choose to require compliance or offer financial incentives to reach each step, ensuring that buildings perform as expected and encouraging innovation in construction techniques and technologies.

Tax Credits & Incentives for Net Zero Homes in BC

Clean Building Tax Credit

British Columbia introduced the Clean Buildings Tax Credit in 2022 which runs until 2025. This initiative promotes improvements in residential and commercial buildings that meet CleanBC standards.

BC Better Homes & Buildings Program

You can utilize the CleanBC Better Homes and Better Buildings programs for rebates on upgrades that improve energy efficiency in both new and existing buildings.

Clean BC PST Rebate on Heat Pumps

The Province of BC now offers a Provincial Sales Tax (PST) exemption on heat pumps, funded by raising the PST on fossil fuel heating equipment to 12%. This change benefits rural and northern communities. The CleanBC Better Homes Low-Interest Financing Program provides loans with rates as low as 0% to replace fossil fuel heating systems with energy efficient heat pumps.

The Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE)

The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in British Columbia is a financing initiative that supports facilitating energy-efficient upgrades and retrofits in residential and commercial buildings.

PACE offers a financing mechanism for both new and existing buildings where property owners can access funding for clean energy projects and improvements – without the need for upfront capital.

This program, which the government of BC is currently moving forward on, aligns with the province’s climate goals and will play a significant role in retrofitting and improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings.

Canada’s Net Zero Energy Housing Council

Canada’s Net Zero Energy Housing Council, known as the NZC, is a national nonprofit body committed to advancing the cause of sustainable living.

The NZC oversees a labeling program that recognizes Net Zero homes, builders, and renovators across Canada. They also engage in marketing and educational initiatives to raise public awareness about the Net Zero brand and the myriad benefits they offer homeowners and the environment. The council also collaborates on financing initiatives to enhance accessibility to Net Zero homes by addressing the initial cost concerns, helping to promote a greener and more energy-efficient future for building design in Canada.

Net Zero vs Net Zero Ready

Net zero ready homes share the same high efficiency standards as net zero homes but have one key difference: they lack a currently installed renewable energy system, like solar panels or air source heat pumps. Net zero ready homes – also referred to as “PV ready” – are designed and constructed so you can easily install features like solar panels in the future.

Embracing a Net Zero Future

With British Columbia’s commitment to cleaner, more efficient buildings under Clean BC, these homes are at the forefront of a greener and more sustainable residential landscape.

Investing in an energy efficient home signifies a commitment to a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly future.

Rear elevation of net zero house by Canadian luxury homebuilder in Kelowna, Bercum Builders
Net Zero home in Kelowna, BC, Canada by Bercum Builders and MQN Architecture.

Bercum Builders | Net Zero Home Builders in British Columbia, Canada

Ready to take the next step toward your sustainable dream home?

Bercum Builders is a qualified Net Zero builder in Kelowna, British Columbia with a legacy of building award-winning custom homes since 1983. We’re here to help you bring your dream home vision to life.

Whether you’re considering a net zero home or a more traditional luxury residence, our team is dedicated to quality, transparency, and a hassle-free building experience.

Let’s turn your dream into a reality. Get in touch with Bercum Builders today.

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