CEO Letter – April

Dear Members, 

Ontario’s recent budget and building code announcement were significant setbacks in our efforts to protect people and the environment from the worst impacts of climate change. In the budget, the government missed another opportunity to support the development of high-performance buildings — like Passive House – and the development of the industry. Meanwhile, Ontario’s roll out of an “updated” 2025 building code fails to align with national standards, creates a complex regulatory environment that increases administrative burdens for builders, and enforces outdated energy efficiency standards, harming Canada’s efforts to meet our climate targets. 

Ontario’s Building Code Taped Red

It is understandable that the budget is silent on the upcoming national building code revisions, since Ontario rolled out a convoluted 2025 Building Code that will have no further consultations. The province won’t hear how high-performance buildings will help protect people and structures from storms and wildfire smoke, like we have seen growing in the past few years.  No committees will hear that by building to updated, high-performance standards — like Passive House — construction costs will not be substantially increased and savings in heating and cooling costs will be generated that more than offset “green” costs within a few years of building occupancy. 

Rather than adopt the lowest tier in the new federal model code for energy efficiency (a level that is no more ambitious than Ontario’s current efficiency standards that were set back in 2017), Ontario’s “updated” building code just points to Ontario’s standards from 2017. Its approach breaks the spirit of building code harmonization and undermines the effectiveness of Canada’s broader efforts to enhance building energy efficiency and reduce operational emissions. The reluctance of Ontario to fully harmonize with national model codes and adopted the tiered greenhouse gas and energy intensity targets (again at a level no more stringent than current levels), has created a complex regulatory environment, where builders must navigate multiple documents and exceptions, increasing the administrative burden and creating potential inconsistencies in enforcement and compliance across the province – a red tape induction! 

The decision-making process in Ontario seems to be heavily influenced by political considerations, prioritizing select industry preferences for fewer environmental requirements to keep costs down over environmental imperatives and favouring the status quo over necessary advancements in building standards. The view of limiting upfront costs and jettisoning environmental requirements is based on a narrow view of housing affordability. Someone will have to pay, the bill will come due, and it will likely fall on those least able to pay.

Please let Ontario Housing Minister Paul Calandra know that Ontario’s approach will burden the development industry, is built off a simplistic understanding of affordability, puts Ontario residents at risk to climate impacts, and undermines Canada’s goal of reducing carbon emissions. Read out via 416-585-7000 or at [email protected]

Provide Feedback on Federal Model Code 

Unlike Ontario, you can provide feedback on the proposed 2025 federal model building code until April 29th. We encourage our members to read our feedback and share your thoughts with the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes. It is important for Passive House members to bring their expertise to bear throughout the national consultation on the proposed amendments.  This review is part of a strategy that impacts fire, building and plumbing codes and is an opportunity to address climate change and related concerns. 

Ontario’s budget falls short 

In March, we were disappointed to see in the latest Ontario budget limited help to the residents of Ontario and the builders in this province to act on climate change. The province could have introduced or dedicated funding for blower door testing. A simple, low-cost effort that tells homeowners where conditioned air is escaping.  But the government chose not to implement that idea.  

What else could they or can they still do to address climate change? 

By simply tweaking a few words as they roll out the funding for some specific initiatives the government could go from zero to hero. 

Let’s take the recently announced funding for job re-training as an example.  Why not include a priority statement that says these training dollars will go to those submitting plans for good quality, green job training that will produce skilled workers whose efforts can be put to productive use while taking action to protect against climate change. 

But here’s the kicker:  The province can go a long way to solving its own housing crisis in a speedy, cost effective and efficient way.  In a way that helps address climate change, provides jobs — green ones at that.  How?  Support, encourage, incentivize the development and construction of high-performance off-site, modular homes.  The government conducted a survey in January about supporting the industry and spoke about the importance of the industry in the budget but failed to announce any funding. And just recently, announced another information gathering phase to understand pricing, timing/schedule, economies of scale, and regional dynamics of modular housing. We encourage all modular housing stakeholders to participate. 

An easy start would be to match the recently announced federal $50 million Homebuilding Technology and Innovation Fund to support the scale-up, commercialization, and adoption of innovative housing technologies and materials, including for modular and prefabricated homes. Another is to expand out procurement efforts to leverage modular building techniques in the development of new long-term care facilities to other sectors. 

If the government could see its way to encourage this fledgling industry, they could rightly say they championed the environment, addressed climate change and got homes built in the 2024 budget. 

The added benefit of implementing high-performance modular solutions is that they come with a proven building standard track record.  They have sound science behind them and have been tested in a variety of climates and proven to perform to the highest standards.