Low-carbon buildings a key to successful climate action

By District Staff on Thursday, Mar 3, 2022

Did you know that heating homes and buildings generates over 40% of the community-wide greenhouse gas emissions in the District?

That’s why we’ve put in place new regulations to limit the use of fossil fuels in new construction, and we’re expanding education and incentive programs for homeowners interested in switching to low-carbon heating systems.

“This is a critical decade for climate action. Our target is a 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030,” says Caroline Jackson, Manager, Climate Action, Natural Systems and Biodiversity. “We are working with builders and homeowners to eliminate fossil fuel as the primary source used to heat buildings.”

Reducing emissions from home heating

In January 2021, we launched a program with the City of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver that encourages homeowners to switch to energy-efficient, low-carbon electric heat pumps for home heating and cooling.

The Jump on a Heat Pump program includes a virtual home energy audit service to support homeowners thinking about installing a heat pump.

Heat pumps provide warmth in the winter, cool air in the summer and can also provide air filtration — important features to keep indoor air clean and comfortable as climate change drives extreme weather events like heatwaves, wildfires and sub-zero winters.

Most heat pumps produce 97% less greenhouse gas emissions than a high-efficiency natural gas furnace.

“We are seeing increasing interest from North Shore homeowners interested in making the switch to heat pumps and taking advantage of the rebates and resources available,” says Adam Wright, a DNV sustainability planner.

A phone app displays heat pump data.


A smartphone app displays the heat pump temperature and status.

Ensuring new buildings are low carbon

Following the declaration of a climate and ecological emergency in 2019, District Council directed staff to develop new construction standards to limit fossil fuels in new building construction.

The new standards, developed in partnership with the City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver, came into effect in July 2021 and are among the highest building efficiency and carbon performance standards of any municipality in Canada.

The BC Energy Step Code, introduced in 2017, is a series of five incremental “steps” meant to ensure all buildings in the province are built net-zero energy ready by 2032.  Net-zero refers to homes that only use as much energy as is produced on-site from renewable sources.

Under the District’s new requirements, builders now have two options when constructing new homes:

  • Build “net-zero energy ready” homes that meet the highest level of the new code (Step 5), significantly reducing the amount of energy consumed
  • Build to a lower level of the code (Step 3), but install a low-carbon heating system such as a high-efficiency electric heat pump in the home

 “New buildings are often around for 60 years or more, so it is important that they are built to high standards today to reduce emissions during their lifetime and to limit the need for future upgrades,” says Wright.

The District’s newest facility, the Maplewood Fire and Rescue Centre, is currently under construction. When completed, the energy-efficient 45,000-sq.-ft. facility is anticipated to have a 71% reduction in energy use and a 92% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to the existing buildings being replaced.

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DNV facilities going low-carbon

The District continues to make the switch to lower-carbon energy. Over the last decade, we've installed heat pumps at several municipal facilities, including Northlands Golf Course, Lynn Valley Community Recreation Centre, and Fire Hall #1 in Lynn Valley.

Similar heat pump technology is vital to heating the pools at Karen Magnussen and Delbrook community recreation centres and will power the recently upgraded central system that heats and cools District Hall.

“We’ve achieved outstanding results. For example, Lynn Valley Community Recreation Centre’s heat pump furnace replacement has reduced gas use by forty-eight percent,” says Monica Samuda, DNV Energy Manager.

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