Saanich opening door to more energy-efficient building standards

Saanich has joined a movement to support the province in creating better building efficiency standards

Coun. Dean Murdock and Saanich council are hoping B.C. will be a leader in climate action in the building sector. Uptown is among the many new commercial buildings in Saanich that include LEED Gold standards of energy efficiency.

Saanich has joined a movement to support the province in creating better building efficiency standards, particularly within the existing B.C. housing stock.

Housing energy efficiency needs to be addressed through action on climate change, said Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock, who brought the recommendation to council on Monday.

“The province is in the midst of updating its climate action plan [climate leadership team], doing consultation and have come up with ambitious initiatives that are available to the public for comment, hopefully by spring,” he said.

Council endorsed the recommendation to support the province’s climate leadership team in updating the climate action plan, particularly in the building sector.

Saanich has a history of asking developers to go the extra mile in terms of sustainability, he added.

The call to action for climate change in the building sector is being centralized by the Pembina Institute, based out of Vancouver.

According to Pembina, Saanich has joined a list of larger municipalities endorsing a bolder climate leadership plan in B.C., such as Victoria, Vancouver, North Vancouver and Richmond, along with dozens of organizations and associations.

“It’s existing housing stock that’s probably the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions, provincially and nationally we need to put together programs to upgrade existing houses, and be more assertive and aggressive in that regard,” Murdock said.

Despite the successful advent of new energy efficient LEED Gold commercial buildings or Built Green residential homes in B.C., it’s a small percentage of all the housing stock.

One of the problems is a lack of financial incentives.

Companies such as the Lee brothers’ Tri-Eagle developments build predominately in Saanich and have adhered to a commercial LEED Gold or condo Built Green standard for about a decade.

The Lees built a pair of buildings across the highway from each other in Royal Oak, the Glen Eagle in 2001 and the Raven in 2009. Both are about 27,000 square-feet, but the LEED-Gold Raven building’s energy costs are 50 per cent less, president Travis Lee said.

“We have two buildings in the same environment, same neighbourhood, but one is 50 per cent less to operate, and yet the savings are wiped out by higher taxes.”

In Lee’s view, a discounted property tax rate for green buildings would encourage builders to spend the extra money.

“The government needs to come to terms on how to create incentives,” Lee said. “If you’re reducing use for services but you’re paying more tax, it should be the other way around. Once we do, that will be the incentive for people to invest more to reduce emissions from their homes.”

Murdock also hopes provincial and federal programs can be developed that will reward energy-efficient retrofits for older residential buildings.

 

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