What the BC Energy Step Code Means for Concrete Producers

The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial regulation that local governments in British Columbia, Canada, can use to incentivize greater energy efficiency in new construction projects. 

Currently, the Step Code focuses on the reduction of operational CO2 emissions in new buildings. In other words, it encourages designers and contractors to use materials that will result in more energy-efficient buildings. 

Given its inherent ability to help buildings stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, concrete has a great opportunity to expand market share in areas where the Step Code is being applied.

As the Step Code evolves, it is expected to expand its focus to embodied carbon in construction. Forward-looking concrete producers in BC are considering ways to offer low carbon concrete to attract business from the increasing number of projects with net-zero emissions goals.

This article summarizes the Step Code and describes how it can evolve to encourage not only net-zero construction but net-zero embodied carbon construction also.

How BC Energy Step Code Works

The Step Code includes a series of efficiency targets grouped into steps representing increasing levels of building efficiency performance. 

The Step Code also enables designers and contractors to have the flexibility to choose performance-based specifications to comply with the code’s efficiency requirements. It also offers guidance to help the industry adopt the performance-based approach. Performance can be measured using energy software modeling and on-site testing to prove the design and constructed building meet the performance requirements. 

While adoption of the BC Energy Step Code is optional by region, the regulation is designed as a roadmap to help the province reach its end target—that all new buildings will have a net-zero energy performance by 2032.

BC Energy Step Code
Source: BC Energy Step Code

Getting to Net Zero

To truly reach its goal of net-zero construction—in terms of both operational and embodied carbon—BC will likely evolve the Step Code to cover the entire construction supply chain.

The City of Vancouver is already thinking about this. It aims to reduce embodied emissions by 40% by 2030. This ambitious target will encourage innovation in all types of construction materials as well as building design and engineering.

Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan—which aligns with the Step Code but sets its own thresholds for performance in greenhouse gas intensity—also states:

“In anticipation of the near term importance of measuring and reducing the embodied emissions of building materials, it is essential that the city begin collecting data from new developments on their estimated embodied carbon in order to inform future incentive, policy, and potentially regulatory mechanisms targeted at reducing the embodied emissions of new buildings as these become an increasingly significant portion of overall building lifecycle emissions.”

It is expected that Vancouver will lead the way in the creation of policies similar to the LECCLA bill in New York, which promotes low-carbon concrete availability within the state—and that the province will follow suit.

CEO Robert Niven, CarbonCure
Travis Butler, CEO of Butler Concrete and Aggregate, with CarbonCure CEO Rob Niven at the Butler plant in Victoria, BC.

Delivering Low-Carbon Concrete

In the next decade, the focus on net-zero embodied carbon emissions will only accelerate as local governments reach their operational emissions reduction targets and seek new ways to improve.

Concrete producers that can offer low-carbon concrete solutions today will be top-of-mind among owners, designers, and engineers as they seek materials to help them meet current and future performance-based specifications for low embodied carbon. 

For example, Butler Concrete & Aggregate on Vancouver Island adopted CarbonCure to meet its own sustainability commitments.

“Supporting environmental sustainability—both for our customers and within our local, family-owned business—is at the forefront of our operations. With local construction still going strong, we know that the Step Code, as well as using sustainable materials like concrete, are great ways to make positive changes for the climate and reduce greenhouse gas. By supporting small steps like this, we are helping the community to be better from the ground up for years to come.”

Travis Butler, President | Butler Concrete & Aggregate Ltd.

CarbonCure has developed an easy-to-adopt carbon removal technology that enables concrete producers to produce reliable, low-carbon concrete mixes and achieve market differentiation. To date, the solution is being used in 300 concrete plants globally.

For more information, get in touch with our sales team.

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