If you’re building homes in British Columbia, you’re probably familiar with the province’s Energy Step Code. You’re also likely aware that following this code into the clean, green future can be an expensive affair. To help folks like you recover the costs of building energy-efficient homes, BC’s government recently launched the Better Homes Program.
What is the CleanBC Better Homes Program?
The Better Homes Program is BC’s incentive for building new, sustainable homes. It was created to address the increased construction costs of buildings that meet the higher “steps” (steps 3-5) of BC’s Energy Code.
The program offers rebates of up to $15,000 and has 2 main pathways to get the financial reward:
- Energy Step Code pathway — qualifying homes are built to BC’s step code, with electric space and water heating. The higher the step to which a house is built, the larger the rebate.
- Heat Pump pathway — regardless of the step, homes can qualify using a heat pump for space heating and domestic hot water.
Energy Step Code Pathway
These are the rebates your building may qualify for, depending on which “step” you hit:
Step 3 — Up to $4,000 Rebate
The lowest of the “upper steps,” Step 3 requires single-family residential buildings to be 20% more energy efficient than those built to comply with Part 9 of BC’s building code.
Step 4 — Up to $6,000 Rebate
Far more stringent, Step 4 requires Part 9 buildings to be 40% more efficient than those built to code.
Achieving this step means improving the home’s airtightness and boosting its R-Values; for example, by strategically adding layers of high-performance continuous insulation, like Halo.
Step 5 — Up to $10,000 Rebate
This step includes Part 9 buildings that are net-zero ready. Meaning those that, with passive energy generation technology (like photovoltaic panels), don’t need to rely on the grid for their energy needs.
In some of the chillier climate zones (BC is home to all 6), you’d have to get creative to design and construct a net-zero-ready building.
For example, here is a potential above-grade solution that would likely meet BC’s Step 5 for Part 9 buildings in even the coldest areas of BC.
Here’s a possible net-zero solution for below-grade walls, too.
Both proposed assemblies would hit about an effective R-40.
Whichever pathway you choose, you’ve also got the option of claiming 2 additional rebates:
- $4,000 for each home you build without a single fossil fuel connection — meaning no gas, propane, or oil for heating, domestic hot water, fireplaces, etc.
- $1,000 for involving a Program Qualified Energy Advisor in your project. (This one’s tricky, though — as the builder, you get $800, while the Advisor pockets the other $200).
Who Is Eligible For the CleanBC Better Homes Program?
Anyone building a new home in BC is eligible for the grants — whether you’re an owner-builder, contractor, or developer. The home must be located in an area served by either BC Hydro or New Westminster Electrical Utility and conform to one of the following Part 9 building types:
- Single-family home
- Laneway home
To qualify, you must pre-register your project, get it approved, and submit a post-construction application for the rebate. If you don’t complete the project within 12 months of pre-registering, you’ll have to submit a brand-new registration form.
Wrapping It Up
Meeting the increasingly stringent energy codes is a significant new expense line in today’s construction budgets.
Luckily, both the federal and provincial governments recognize this and offer some means of getting a rebate for doing the right thing.