Tiered Energy Codes and Net Zero Housing in Alberta
Auto-Adoption of the National Codes
(Alberta Editions Building, Fire Codes and the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings)
The National Building Code of Canada 2020 (NBC), National Fire Code of Canada 2020 (NFC), and the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2020 (NECB) were published in March 2022. These are known as National Model Codes and have no legislative authority until the Government of Alberta adopts the codes by regulation.
The Alberta Editions of the Building and Fire Codes will be based on the National Model Codes and anticipated to be published in the 1st quarter of 2023 which would come into force 12 months later in 1st quarter of 2024. These will be the National Building Code-2022 Alberta Edition and the National Fire Code-2022 Alberta Edition. As the Energy Code is referenced from the applicable Building Code, the NECB will come into force in conjunction with the National Building Code-2022 Alberta Edition in the 1st quarter of 2024.
Tiered Energy Codes
The 2020 National Building and Energy Codes were published in April 2022 and included Tiered Energy Codes as a pathway to Net Zero homes. The goal of the Energy Tiers is to progressively increase the energy efficiency requirements of new homes to be Net Zero Ready by 2030 and Net Zero in the future. For clarity, Tier 1 in the 2020 NBC is close to the existing Code and Tier 5 is intended to be Net Zero.
While Alberta will auto-adopt the Tiered Energy Codes, the Government of Alberta has the discretion to determine which Tier to start at and the timeline to adopt future Tiers. This process is managed by Alberta Municipal Affairs through advice from the Safety Codes Council, BILD Alberta and other stakeholders. Municipal Affairs has yet to make a formal decision on which Tier the Alberta Building Code will start at.
BILD Alberta's Provincial Residential Technical Committee (PRTC) has created a Tiered Energy Code Roadmap, which provides the costing, barriers and educational requirements associated with each 2020 National Building Code Energy Tiers.
New National Building, Energy, Plumbing and Fire Codes
The new National Building, Plumbing, Fire and Energy Codes have been published and are available for in electronic format for free through the NRC’s Publications Archive and for purchase, in printed format, from the NRC's Virtual Store. Previous editions of the codes also remain available through these websites.
Alberta has legislative authority over building design and construction within its jurisdiction, and adopts the National Model Codes into regulation in order for them to come into effect. Under the Safety Codes Act, new codes become provincial law and form the new provincial minimum standard 12 months from the date of code publication. However, Alberta publishes its own editions of the building and fire codes (through the National Research Council) based on national code provisions, which means the new codes would not become law until 12 months from the date the Alberta code editions are published. We expect additional information and guidance for the publication and adoption of the Alberta code editions in the coming months.
Of note, the new National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) and energy efficiency for houses and small buildings in the National Building Code includes information related to energy efficiency tiers or levels, which will allow provinces and territories to choose the appropriate tier of energy efficiency requirements with the goal of a net zero ready standard for new homes and buildings by 2030.
BILD Alberta has been working with Alberta Municipal Affairs and the Safety Codes Council (through our membership on the building sub-council) to provide our input on the national code changes for adoption in Alberta over the past several years. We are currently engaged with the Safety Codes Council to identify the technical/capacity barriers associated with each tier that will need to be addressed and to provide advice to Municipal Affairs on the most appropriate tier to choose as the minimum province-wide standard.
BILD Alberta’s Provincial Residential Technical Committee has begun assessing the new energy efficiency code provisions with the goal of identifying a pathway through each of the Tiers, including cost implications and any technical barriers that will need to be resolved. This will form the advice we provide Government in approaching the new Codes and the timing for adopting the different tiers for energy efficiency. BILD Alberta and CHBA National have begun work on resources and information to educate members on the changes so keep your eyes peeled for webinars and guides in the coming months.
The adoption timeline for the Alberta Building, Energy, Fire and Plumbing Codes is yet to be finalized; however, it is anticipated that these codes will come into effect next year. Until then, the 2019 Alberta Codes regulations will still be in effect.
For those who need to know how to build homes in one of the toughest climates on earth, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Builders’ Manual is the most authoritative guide you will find for building superior energy-efficient housing. And for the first time, this edition addresses Net Zero Housing – homes that produce as much energy as they consume each year. The new 2020 edition offers over 450 pages of concise information and easy-to-follow illustrations.
The concepts, building science, techniques, materials, and building details discussed in this manual are applicable to all houses, no matter their size, energy performance target, or method of construction.
Whether you’re a student or a seasoned builder, there’s always something new to learn.
Tall Wall Guidelines
Changes under the 2019 National Building Code (Alberta Edition) made BILD Alberta’s Tall Wall Guidelines non-compliant with current code. BILD Alberta’s Provincial Residential Technical Committee attempted to have the Tall Wall Guidelines updated but engineering firms were unwilling to certify a new document. More information on this change and potential solutions can be found here.
Free User's Guides
To help ensure that the National Model Codes are properly understood and effectively implemented, the NRC is now offering free electronic access to the related user’s guides, including:
- Structural Commentaries (User's Guide – NBC 2015: Part 4 of Division B)
- Illustrated User’s Guide – NBC 2015: Part 9 of Division B, Housing and Small Buildings
- User’s Guide – National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2017
The user’s guides are designed to complement the National Model Codes by providing additional background information, as well as detailed examples and calculations.
NRC has now made the current and previous electronic editions of these publications available for download in PDF format from the NRC Publications Archive.
The new definitive guide for home renovation in Canada
In Canada, the renovation sector creates great jobs and employs even more people than the new home building sector. Annually, Canadians invest more in renovation and repair of their homes than is invested in building new homes. Approximately 90% of Canadians have said they want to live in their homes as long as they possibly can. There are many opportunities in the renovation industry.
Home renovation starts with a building that may be decades old, sometimes with hidden problems from the wear and tear of time, weather, older materials and more. Renovators need to understand and apply building science to every project they undertake. Created as a companion text for the Builders' Manual, this first edition of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Renovators’ Manual takes a deep dive into applying building science to renovating for a wide variety of circumstances. Knowledge is a key element of any successful renovation and this manual delivers.