Buildings play a crucial role in the fight against climate change. In British Columbia, residential and commercial buildings account for 12% of the province’s total emissions.1 Most of these emissions come from natural gas used for heating, as well as the materials and fuels used in the construction phase.2 As local governments implement regulations to meet upcoming emission reduction targets, builders and property owners need practical and cost-efficient solutions that reduce their properties’ emissions without compromising on design or comfort.

Legislation for new construction

In May 2023, the Regional Districts of Central Kootenay (RDCK) and Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) implemented legislation requiring all new residential homes to meet an energy performance standard of Step 3, or at least 20% more efficient than a 2018 baseline building defined by the BC Building Code (as seen in Figure 1). To support the adoption of the new regulation across both regions, the districts contacted Prism Engineering to help them develop resources to demonstrate and communicate how builders and new homes can meet this standard.

Figure 1: Energy Step Code for new home construction. Source: BC Energy Step Code.

Identifying energy-efficient design features

With funding from FortisBC for the project, Prism visited five houses in Castlegar, Grand Forks, Nelson, and Rossland to identify key design features that helped the buildings achieve Step Code requirements. To support this research, the homeowners and builders provided as-built documentation, building energy modelling data, and construction phase photos. Our team then synthesized this data and onsite findings to create an Energy Step Code Case Study for each building (as seen in Figure 2).

“We conducted interviews with both builders and homeowners and reviewed each building’s documentation and energy model files to gather information on the design, construction and energy performance of each of the houses studied,” says Matt Swallow, an Energy Management Engineer-in-Training based at our Nelson office.

Figure 2: “Achieving Step Code” case studies, prepared by Prism Engineering, highlight five high-performance residential homes.

“Once we identified the information needed, our team created factsheets that included important design features, a summary of building equipment, details on the building envelope construction, insights from both the builder and homeowner, as well as a table outlining key energy performance metrics. These components help to demonstrate how each building achieved its respective Step Code level,” he explains.

Higher energy efficiency without compromise

This work demonstrates the ability to build energy-efficient homes that produce fewer emissions, do not compromise on design or comfort, and cost a relatively small amount more to construct.

One of the case studies, for example, describes a traditional, single-family home in Rossland that is 50% more energy efficient than a comparative 2018 baseline building. This significant improvement in energy efficiency was achieved with only a 5% cost increase compared to a traditionally built house. Similarly, a second case study describes a single-family dwelling in Grand Forks that is 42% more energy-efficient, and incurred just a 4% cost increase.

These case studies illustrate how even small investment upgrades can substantially improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. They also highlight other “non-energy” benefits to homeowners, such as improved comfort and reduced utility costs.

Knowledge is power

These case studies will help RDCK and RDKB support the new construction industry to meet legislative requirements. Moreover, they will assist builders and homeowners in making informed decisions to save energy, based on research and tested experiences.

Read the five case studies on the RDCK website.

Learn more about B.C.’s Energy Step Code
Energy Step Code


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1 “Tracking emissions from buildings,” Clean BC, accessed on May 8, 2024.
2 Ibid.