Canada Code Updates: What You Need to Know

September 26th, 2017 by Trey Barrineau

The recent updates to provincial building codes in Canada are aggressive for fenestration products, but long-term changes proposed by Natural Resources Canada could be exceptionally stringent, according to Jeff Baker, president of WESTLab Canada and Technical Consultant for Fenestration Canada.

Baker discussed the changes during a webinar last week on the Canadian Energy Codes and Energy Acts that was hosted by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA).

Big Changes Coming?

Natural Resources Canada is proposing a national regulation on windows in order to reduce energy use in buildings and meet the requirements of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. It calls for an average U-factor of 1.6 by 2020. By 2025, it seeks a U-factor of 1.2. for windows. By 2030, the plan demands a 0.8 U-factor for windows, and they must be able to be manufactured and installed cost effectively.

Because the 2030 requirements would essentially mandate triple-pane windows, the plan has generated a lot of discussion and concern.

Baker says Natural Resources Canada will be working closely with Fenestration Canada on these goals and how to achieve them.

National Building Codes

Baker said Canadian National Building Code 9.36.5 offers both prescriptive and performance compliance paths. British Columbia uses the NBC 201 9.36 with a modification that doesn’t allow Energy Ratings (ER) numbers for compliance. (ER is a value that shows the balance between U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and air leakage. A higher number means a more efficient product.) Ontario and Quebec have their own energy codes. Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia use NBC 2010 Section 9.36. The Northwest Territories will use Section 9.36 at some point.

British Columbia has introduced step codes. Local municipalities can reference higher performance levels to allow for rezoning, for example. However, Baker says these step codes have created a lot of controversy because of the variances that come with them. The prescriptive and performance compliance is the same as NBC 9.36.

“The step codes are also an indication of where the province is planning to go in future code revisions,” Baker says.

There are three sets of residential British Columbia steps codes that use different climate zones. They are based on less than 3,000 heating degree days, greater than 3,000 but less than 4,000 heating degree days, and more than 4,000 heating degree days.

Ontario’s energy code has both prescriptive and performance compliance paths. A supplemental document, SB12, covers all the compliance methods for residential buildings in Ontario. The province is divided into two climate zones: less than 5,000 heating degree days and more than 5,000 heating degree days.

Ontario is proposing changing to SB12 for 2020 and 2022. The 2020 changes would reduce U-factors and  increase ER values by one level. The 2022 changes would further reduce U-factors and increase ER values by one level, and reduce the air change per hour (ACH) value that allows for the fenestration performance to be reduced by one level.

Fenestration Canada is working on a response to the proposed changes and will likely be submitting comments.

National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings

The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) was first introduced in late 2011 and was updated slightly for 2015. NECB includes two options for compliance: Prescriptive and  performance. The NECB performance compliance path is similar to the residential code. Baker says the proposed building energy modeling allows for a large number of trade-offs. The details can be found in Part 8 of NECB 2011 or 2015.

In the British Columbia Commercial Energy Code, prescriptive compliance is the same as NECB 2011, and so is performance compliance. The province differs from NECB 2011 with the introduction of step codes, which feature optional performance levels above code that local municipalities can reference.

There are sets of commercial steps codes based on climate zones. Both use the standard of 3,000 heating degree days or lower. One is for residential occupancy; the other is for commercial occupancy.

SB10 in Ontario

Ontario’s energy code has both prescriptive and performance compliance paths. SB10 covers compliance methods for commercial buildings.

SB10 allows for multiple means of compliance, but the two main ones are ASHRAE 90.1 2013 and NECB 2011.

Fenestration Canada is working on a response to the proposed changes of Ontario SB10 and will likely be submitting comments.

Many provinces, as well as the federal government, have energy acts that allow products to be regulated for energy efficiency. Two provinces currently have regulations for fenestration products in their energy acts: British Columbia and Ontario. The provincial regulations cover any products sold in the province, regardless of where they were manufactured.

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