After the province pushed back its planned update to the building code, Esquimalt is looking into reducing greenhouse gas emissions by not allowing natural gas to be hooked up to new multifamily developments.
At its committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 16, Esquimalt councillors unanimously approved having staff come back with a report at a future meeting that will include a formal policy stating council – through its rezoning process – doesn’t support natural gas connection.
That same report will recommend the township continue to monitor B.C.’s moves around ensuring new buildings are emission-free by the end of the decade and support an implementation timeline similar to its neighbours.
Saanich and Victoria have announced they’ll require an expedited timeline compared to the province where, once the building code is amended, new buildings will have to produce no emissions beginning in 2025.
Esquimalt was expecting the province to introduce legislation by the end of 2022 mandating all new buildings would have to be emission-free by 2030, after a scaled implementation.
That didn’t come to fruition, and staff said provincial contacts told them it may be the end of this year before such requirements are in place.
The township’s objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the most effective way to do that is to get rid of natural gas consumption for energy, heating and other uses, staff said.
“I would suggest that we can meet both objectives, affordable housing and reducing greenhouse gases, by having a policy that we will not allow, through the rezoning process, multifamily buildings to be connected to natural gas,” said Bill Brown, director of development services.
When developers bring a proposal to the township, staff have informally been encouraging applicants to include higher levels of energy efficiency in their projects, along with avoiding natural gas when possible.
Those requests are usually well-received by builders, who are also advancing lower-emission projects, staff said.
Before the vote, Coun. Tim Morrison hoped the township would be able to publicly communicate its position on lower carbon building by the end of the meeting to give investors certainty.
“So when you come to this municipality with a project in mind, you should already have that worked into your project,” he said. “Right now, officially we don’t have a policy.”
B.C. has been looking to align its new building code with the provincial Step Code – an optional guideline that can be used to mandate energy efficiency in new construction – and add a carbon pollution standard that would require new buildings be zero carbon by 2030.