As of November 1, 2016, Alberta has adopted the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) in order to effectively support our province’s Climate Change Strategy, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy efficiency. Developed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes – with funding provided by the NRC and NRCan – the National Energy Code for Buildings is the result of a widespread study that included consultations with members of the construction industry, government officials, stakeholders and the general public. The revised energy building codes place Canada on the same level as other countries leading the world in efficient building construction.

How the NECB Impacts the Architecture Industry

Building components such as the envelope (exterior walls, roof, foundation, slab on grade), lighting (exterior and interior), HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and service water heating (systems used for the supply of water) are all affected by the new energy codes. Construction projects that are not required to meet the NECB include additions to existing buildings, renovations to buildings not originally built under the scope of the NECB and certain design details such as interior and exterior finishing.

Performance vs Performance Using Simple Trade Off vs Prescriptive

The NECB has a three tier system in place to allow for more flexibility in the building process. The first is the “Performance” approach where the expected energy performance characteristics are met using a design by a qualified professional, which offers design flexibility while still achieving efficiency goals. The “Performance Using Simple Trade Off” approach is when the expected energy performance characteristics are met. However within the building element, it is possible to trade-off a high efficiency item for a lower one. For example, better wall insulation would allow for windows that are less efficient. Lastly, the “Prescriptive” approach follows the prescribed energy performance characteristics as set out in the energy building codes, i.e. the prescribed level of insulation and amount of windows for the region where the building construction is to take place.

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Examples of Increased Energy Efficiency Requirements

Some examples of increased efficiency requirements in Alberta’s energy codes include lighting, building envelopes, insulation, windows, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and service water heating for buildings. Also included are vehicles and alternative fuels, elevators and escalators, renewable energy systems such as fuel cell systems, wind systems and hydrokinetic systems, boilers and pressure vessels for oil refineries, mining operations, petrochemical plants, refrigeration units, power generation and storage of liquefied gases.

A More Sustainable Future

While the adoption of the National Energy Code certainly brings changes to the residential and commercial design and construction sectors – such as increase in cost and a different method of planning – it should be kept in mind that these changes are meant to create a more sustainable future for Alberta, for Canada and for the world as a whole. Further, many of these changes reflect how buildings in our province and country are already being designed and built, as individuals and organizations strive for energy efficiency in order to reduce long-term costs and decrease impact upon the planet and its natural resources.