New ‘Green’ Bylaw Could Mean Even Higher Housing Costs

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Starting from May 1st, Vancouver’s Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning will come into effect. This policy is part of the city’s ambitious Zero Emissions Building Plan, which aims to reduce emissions from new buildings by 90% by 2025, and to achieve zero emissions for all new buildings by 2030.

The policy aims to achieve this through several methods - and may mean significant changes to the look of highrise buildings and new houses.

In general, there will be higher standards for building envelopes (e.g airtight design, super insulation, good ventilation). Buildings created under this standard would use little energy, and be more affordable to heat and operate.

However, under this new bylaw, only gas derived from renewable sources will be allowed – which means no more natural fireplaces and cooking elements. Notably, British Columbia is a leader in natural gas production; and natural gas costs about one-third of what electric heat costs. This move from natural gas to renewable sources will likely have a large effect on costs - especially since gas from gas from renewable sources, such as landfills, currently produce less than 1% of the gas used in BC.

Concrete balconies will also be on the decline since they allow too much heat to escape. This would require a thermal break to reduce heat transfer; but having an energy-efficient balcony means extra costs.

With all these new restrictions and requirements, industry experts predict an added 15% to 20% to the cost of new highrise condominium towers. This would equate to at least $10,000 per new condo apartment. This number is likely even higher for new low-rise condominiums, townhouses, detached houses, and substantial home renovations.

Fortunately, for concerned individuals, it will be a while before the new regulations truly hit the housing market. There is a current backlog in rezoning applications, and it typically takes four to seven years to get rezoning approval in the city of Vancouver. It will still be a few years until we see the effects of this new bylaw, and whether it will be successful in reducing building emissions.

City of Vancouver