City of Vancouver Adopts Bold Decarbonization Strategy

  • Big move #4, “all new and replacement heating and hot water systems will be zero-emission by 2025” was approved by council in April 2020
  • Transition to zero-carbon heating systems beginning April 2022 (Part 9 buildings, including low rise MURB)
  • See below for incentive funding sources available to support this transition
  • CaGBC Zero Carbon (ZCB) certification offers recognition of your efforts

Almost 40% of global carbon emissions are attributed to building operations. As we move toward our 2030 goal of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions (over 2007 levels), major steps are required to decarbonize new and existing buildings. 

In recognition of this challenge, the City of Vancouver has taken the bold step of mandating that all new and replacement heating and hot water building systems will be zero-emission by 2025.

This single move will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 56%, however, it presents many challenges for building owners and designers around the technologies and approaches that could be adopted to ensure the cost-effective transition to electric heating alternatives can be achieved.

City of Vancouver Climate Emergency Action

The Vancouver climate emergency response report released in April 2019, was approved by council in March 2020. The report included six (6) big moves, one of which is directly related to buildings:

Action #4: By 2025, all new and replacement heating and hot water systems will be zero emissions.

This means that by 2025 all new and retrofit projects are obligated to install an electric solution for space heating and domestic hot water services, a large portion of which are expected to consist of heat pump technology.

The carbon reduction potential of this action alone will achieve 46% of Vancouver’s targeted reductions, (552,000 tonnes CO2e/year reduced by 2030). Staff will report back to council by fall 2020 with a strategy to achieve the target.

In March 2020 and in preparation of this big move, the city of Vancouver updated the report to include the following intermediate actions: improve energy efficiency requirement for residential buildings (3 storeys and under) beginning January 2022; make efforts to meet BC energy step code for residential buildings (4-6 storeys) beginning January 2021; set a limit of 2 tonnes of carbon emissions from new single-family and duplex dwellings beginning January 2021; and to make amendments to close the gap in lighting provision beginning July 2020.

BC Building Code – BC STEP Code

BC building code along with building step code guidelines has set a goal to make buildings 20% more efficient by 2022, 40% more efficient by 2027, and 80% more efficient or net-zero ready by 2032. These regulations applied around all BC, and although they are less strict than the city of Vancouver requirement, they all are rigid steps towards zero carbon buildings.

Incentive Funding Sources

The transition from natural gas heating to electric heat pump technology will come at a cost for building owners. In recognition of this, there are several sources of government funding available to building owners, to help offset the costs of installing heat pump / electric heating technology:

Incentives to support electrification measures, such as heat pumps

A top-up to the CleanBC rebates for the installation of heat pumps

For the design and construction of a single-family home or low rise residential buildings that meet the requirement of Step Code level 4, 5 or the Passive House standard

For all home retrofit rebates, see the

For all commercial building retrofit rebates, see the

CaGBC Zero Carbon (ZCB) certification – Recognition of your efforts

Canada Green building Council launched the updated Zero Carbon standard (V2) in March 2020. The certification offers a method for building owners to be recognized for their efforts and achievements in reaching zero carbon performance.

The release of the CaGBC Zero Carbon Building standard provides a timely, made-in-Canada solution that provides standards, education & research to support Canada’s climate mitigation goals.

If you would like to learn more about these upcoming changes, feel free to reach out to us!