Revisiting the B.C. Heat Dome
With the summer now in full swing, I want to take a moment to reflect on last year’s unprecedented “heat dome” that created temperatures above 40 Celsius in British Columbia, killing 619 people from heat stress. It is clear from this event – the deadliest weather event in over a hundred years – that climate change is not only impacting our natural and built environment, but also our health.
Buildings play a major role in climate change. They contribute 18 per cent of Canada’s total carbon pollution, and over 50 per cent in large cities, and they are the primary place residents turn to stay safe during extreme weather events.
The recent Report to the Chief Coroner of British Columbia on Extreme Heat and Human Mortality found that “98% of deaths occurred indoors” and “39% in multi-unit buildings.” Improving building envelopes, replacing polluting heating and cooling systems and building materials will help cut our carbon pollution, and spur jobs and innovation. If built or retrofitted properly, buildings have the potential to shelter us from some of the worst climate-related impacts.
The report to the Chief Coroner has put forth several recommendations of interest to our Passive House community:
- By summer 2023, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will ensure the CleanBC Better Homes and Home Renovation Rebate Program includes both passive and active cooling measures as eligible for rebate.
- The Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing will ensure that the 2024 release of the BC Building Code incorporates both passive and active cooling requirements in new housing construction, and that the release of the Alterations Code for Energy Efficient, Resilient Buildings explicitly identifies both passive and active cooling standards for existing home renovation.
These recommendations are welcome, and should help spur support for the introduction of passive heating and cooling standards in programs and codes for new builds and retrofits. Current retrofit programs and B.C.’s progressive Step Code are, as we know, inadequate to deliver resilient buildings. We are working to change this, but I also want to encourage each of our members to deliver this message to your local representatives and building officials.
Standard Recognition at the Infrastructure Bank
This month, we also met with representatives from the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to understand their Building Retrofit Initiative. The commercial stream seeks to stimulate the private capital market for energy retrofits by providing debt financing for commercial buildings at a minimum of $25 million for building owners or third-party aggregators. As part of the commercial stream of the program, applicants have to achieve Investor Ready Energy Efficiency (IREE) certification. We are working with the Infrastructure Bank to find a route where Passive House certification can be accepted as part of their program.
Green Building Awards
While we are making progress on so many fronts, it seems fitting that we take a moment to recognize the winners of this year’s Green Building Awards 2022, the national competition developed by Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine.
Of the winning entries, a full five of the projects are Passive House International certified. I see this as proof positive that Passive House is making an ever-widening impact on the building industry. You can read a fuller account of this year’s competition and winners further on in this month’s newsletter. Congratulations to each of this year’s winners.