Energy Codes

Navigating the Energy Codes and Programs in Ontario

As our country continues to prioritize the integration and advancement of sustainable and energy-efficient building practices, the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) is developed and regularly updated by the National Research Council of Canada to ensure that energy efficiency and sustainability are incorporated in building design and construction. The NECB is mandatory for new construction and significant renovations of all buildings and sets energy efficiency requirements that work in conjunction with the National Building Code.

Ontario has adopted the NECB as its building code for energy efficiency and has implemented the Energy Benchmark and Reporting (EBR) program to track and report energy and water usage in buildings over 50,000 sq.ft. This program uses the Energy Star Portfolio Manager Tool, which is based on a similar tool from the United States, to benchmark a building's performance against similar buildings across the country and provide a score of 1-100. This allows for the tracking of energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector.

In Ontario, the government has established a goal for all new buildings to attain Net-Zero status by 2030. This means that these structures will generate as much energy as they consume over the course of a year through the utilization of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. As a result, these buildings will generate enough clean energy to offset the energy consumed by the building's occupants, systems, and appliances.

In Ontario, the government is working to align the NECB 2020 National Model Codes by implementing a single tier. This includes adopting Tier 1 for Part 3 Buildings (such as group A, B, F-1, or buildings exceeding 600m² in area or more than 3 stories in height), and adopting Tier 3 for Part 9 Housing and Small Buildings (which are less than 3 stories and less than 600m²). However, since the OBC's requirements are already at a high level, this incremental improvement to the tiered code framework may pose a challenge for reaching the goal of Net-Zero readiness by 2030.

In Toronto, the city has established the Toronto Green Standard (TGS), a tiered building code that provides guidelines for the design and construction of sustainable buildings. The TGS is based on the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and it is mandatory for all new construction and major renovations in the city.

Passive Houses and R-2000 homes are both examples of highly energy-efficient buildings that go above and beyond the minimum requirements set out in the tiered building codes. Passive Houses are a specific type of building that is designed to use minimal energy for heating and cooling, through a combination of super-insulation, airtight construction, and heat recovery ventilation. R-2000 homes are also highly energy-efficient, but they are built to meet a specific set of standards set out by the Canadian government. Both Passive Houses and R-2000 homes are considered "beyond code" options and can help a building to meet the higher tiers of building codes, such as the NECB or the Toronto Green Standard.