Greening Small Home Renovations – The City of Vancouver may require Green Improvements to the Renovation of One and Two Family Homes
A small but important part of the ‘Greenest City Action Plan’, The City of Vancouver hopes to tackle the resource efficiency of existing buildings through a proposed amendment to our building by-law (VBBL) that would require green improvements along with the renovation of one and two family homes. Arguably, it might seem like this will have a small impact on the massive GHG goals taken on by the Province and City, however it is an essential step in any Green Building plan. When you hear about a new LEED or Built Green Home, you might think, “That’s great, but about all the existing buildings out there?” Legally, the City can only require changes to a structure if a homeowner is in the process of asking for a modification. In 2009, the City held public consultations and specific industry meetings to get feedback on the by-law amendment that will go to council in the next few months (Summer 2010). Staff from the City of Vancouver indicate that, “Their input helped shape our recommendations. The public was supportive, many were already interested in what small things they could do to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.” Further, affordability was a driving element to this plan, and it is anticipated that the added costs will stay below 10%; one way this was achieved was through selected upgrade strategies that were inexpensive or that aligned with current grant programs.
So, you might just be fixing up your bathroom, or you might be adding a whole floor on to your house. How does the City propose to require green building features with renovations that could range so much in scale? Right now the By-law is written so that green improvements are required based on the value of your construction project. That way if you do a smaller renovation you would not be expected to upgrade the entire house, only the percentage improvement that you are making. Also, there are parallel paths that you can take: a performance path that is oriented to larger renovations or projects that are already going to be certified through the 3rd party rating system (EnerGuide), and then a prescriptive path that identifies specific steps depending on which size of renovation.
54% of Vancouver’s GHG emissions come from the construction and operation of buildings, and existing buildings account for the largest percentage of this measure, largely due to insulation inefficiency. In September 2007, Council adopted a revised long-range climate protection target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. In June 2007, Council adopted a target of having all new buildings in Vancouver be carbon neutral by 2030. Starting July 30th, 2010, new construction in re-zonings will be required to meet LEED Gold standards. The City is also studying a similar renovation by-law amendment that would apply to large residential, commercial and industrial buildings.