Vancouver to Mull New Climate Emergency Rules for Buildings

The City of Vancouver is setting a course to phase out fossil fuel heating and hot water in homes. And you can help.

First, a bit of background: At the start of this year, the City of Vancouver halted the routine practice of installing natural gas furnaces and hot water heaters in new homes by requiring builders to install zero emissions space and water heating equipment instead. 

That was an amazing first step, and you helped make it happen! Next up: Transitioning out the hundreds of thousands of existing natural gas furnaces and hot water heaters across the city—our focus here at Switch It Up BC. Existing buildings represent 60 per cent of the City of Vancouver’s carbon pollution, and houses contribute a quarter of that total. It’s a challenge on a much bigger scale.

The policy most often used in these situations is known as a “time of replacement” policy. In communities having such a policy, homeowners must replace fossil-fuel heat, hot water, and cooling systems with near-zero-emissions systems when the fossil-fuel systems reach the end of their service life. Typically, these near-zero-emissions systems are electric, such as heat pumps.

A new staff report posted to the city’s web site—one of four just out that addresses carbon emissions from buildings—outlines the next steps to phasing out residential fossil fuel equipment from Vancouver’s existing detached homes.

What’s In the Staff Report?

It’s going to council in two phases. The first proposed pieces are outlined in a report that council will consider on May 17; the subsequent recommended rules will land on a council agenda next year.
So, what’s up first? Two things:

  1. The city’s staffers are proposing to require electric heat pumps whenever a homeowner plans to plumb or wire air conditioning. This means households will also gain the benefit of very efficient, near zero emissions heating when installing cooling in their homes, with only a small difference in cost.

  2. Also, staff are proposing that renovations with a declared permit value above $250,000 will need to meet new construction requirements for space heating and hot water. As noted above, this typically means space heating with an electric heat pump and an efficient electric hot water heater.

Again, these are modest first steps. The real big impact will come in 2023, when staff will propose that all replacement household hot water and space heating systems will need to run on renewable energy. (Note: The city won’t require homeowners to replace operating natural gas equipment.)

The city is using the first two steps to give the industry time to build capacity and get its ducks in a row for the next steps in 2023. When that time of replacement policy comes to council, again, in 2023, the city expects it will start the process of cutting carbon pollution from Vancouver’s detached houses in half by 2030!

How You Can Help

The mayor and council will consider the above requirements on May 17, 2022. You can help by sending them an email. Let them know you support the proposed rules for detached homes, and look forward to looping back on the more ambitious regulations coming in 2023. We’ll keep you posted!

Tip: As council will consider four building-related climate reports, be sure to reference “Climate Emergency – Bylaw Updates Applicable to Existing Detached Homes” in your note.

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