Federal Governments in both the US and Canada have established deadlines for achieving national net-zero targets. At the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27), the United States launched the Net-Zero Government Initiative, in an effort to achieve net-zero emissions from national government operations by no later than 2050. North of the 49th Parallel, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act became law on June 29, 2021, confirming Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions also by 2050.
Net-Zero Targets Advance Changes to National Building Codes
In both countries, these federal net-zero initiatives are expected to speed the process already underway on both sides of the border to update building codes to increase energy efficiency code compliance. In 2021, the US announced a National Initiative to Advance Building Codes providing incentives for communities to progress increased energy efficiency standards for newly constructed or substantially rehabilitated residential properties, while also equipping communities to be more resilient to extreme weather events that are intensifying due to climate change. In Canada, the federal government has committed to developing a net-zero emissions model building code for provincial/territorial adoption by 2024.
Such legislation helps to advance building codes (proven effective as policy tools) to keep pace with technology advances to help millions of households and businesses tap potential energy savings and cost reductions. By adapting to reflect the growing national trend of fuel-switching and electrification to enable zero-emissions technologies like efficient electric heat pumps and electric vehicles (EVs), policymakers can cut consumer costs and harmful pollution while supporting the transition to a clean economy.
Code Caretakers Respond With New Energy and Emission Codes
In the US, the International Code Council (ICC) responded with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code® (IECC) now including Zero Code appendices for both residential and commercial buildings. ICC also provided a host of energy resources and model policies intended to guide state and civic agencies in the implementation of net-zero compliant building codes.
In 2021, the Canadian Federal Government introduced new model codes to establish tiered building energy performance compliance. These codes include four energy performance “tiers” with the highest tier consistent with a net-zero energy-ready standard (NZER). Net-zero energy-ready means a building is so energy efficient that it can easily supply its own needs with renewable energy. The introduction of this “step code” is a precursor to the Canadian Federal Government’s net-zero emissions building code expected by 2024. This means that local Canadian municipalities can expect to implement nationally recognized net-zero emissions requirements as early as mid-2025.
While federal governments on both sides of the border progress in their efforts to harmonize net-zero energy and emissions codes into existing building codes frameworks, forward thinking jurisdictions such as California and British Columbia have already progressed updates to their building codes to enable their development communities to develop new housing inventory incorporating the energy optimization and emissions standards anticipated for eventual net-zero compliance.
To help other jurisdictions kickstart their net-zero building efforts, Efficiency Canada has authored two guides for Canadian municipalities:
In the US, several organizations have issued guidebooks for communities that are keen to kickstart their own net-zero building initiatives ahead of the anticipated national push:
Modern Code Enforcement Solutions Will Help to Speed Net-Zero Code Compliance
Given the looming deadline for net-zero compliance and the extensive code updates anticipated, jurisdictions utilizing automation assisted permitting and code enforcement systems will be those best suited to achieve expedient and efficient compliance with the new code requirements.
To this end, industry standard solutions such as POSSE PLS arrive out-of-the-box with a vast library of preconfigured workflows and permit types (based on current ICC best practices), as well as full compatibility with your existing permitting structure and metadata. Attributes can be set and tailored for each type of permit through the POSSE PLS administration website, giving you the tools needed to tailor permits to your jurisdiction-specific requirements for net-zero adherence.
To ensure compliance with emerging net-zero codes, POSSE PLS’ Planning Module provides integrated conditions management functionality, so conditions can be established, and applicants made aware of each condition that needs to be met before moving to the next phase in the application. This equips your staff to easily record new conditions, identify outstanding conditions, and track when conditions are met.
Finally, to ensure the success of your net-zero initiatives, seamless collaboration will be required amongst all development plan contributors and reviewers. POSSE ePlans facilitates this crucial intra-organizational cooperation with a powerful toolkit, incorporating:
Meeting the Needs of Today’s Market and Tomorrow’s World
Legislators in both the US and Canada have set the clock ticking for net-zero implementation. New codes governing energy efficiency and emissions reduction have already been introduced on both sides of the border and more systemic changes look sure to follow as stakeholders at the national, regional, and civic levels work together to harmonize building codes for the electric economy. In conjunction with these changes to institutional infrastructure, a number of innovative jurisdictions are already leading the charge at the grass roots level—setting their own civic standards for net-zero compliance whilst simultaneously incentivizing their development communities to build new housing inventory that meets the evolving energy and emission standards.
With the regulatory landscape shifting so rapidly, it is more important than ever that today’s government leaders have the right tools and information at their fingertips to empower their communities to meet today’s voracious demand for affordable housing with forward-thinking built inventory designed for both today’s market and tomorrow’s world.
Learn more about POSSE PLS. Request a demo today.