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2011 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings Update

At its spring 2011 meeting, the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) voted to approve the final proposed changes slated for inclusion in the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2011 (NECB). This critical vote ensured that the NECB could be published this fall. The CCBFC also acknowledged the tremendous work by CCBFC standing committee members and the technical support staff of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to finish it in the short time available.

The NECB is the result of an extensive consultation process involving stakeholders from Canadian industry, multiple levels of government (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal), the construction industry, and the general public. It was developed by the CCBFC, with technical support and funding provided by the National Research Council of Canada and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) as part of its commitment to improving the energy efficiency of Canadian buildings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time ever, the NECB places Canada on a comparable footing with most countries that lead the world in energy efficient building construction.

Key characteristics
The new code contains close to 245 technical changes from the 1997 Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (MNECB) that address a host of issues such as the building envelope; lighting; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning; service water heating; electrical power systems and motors; and building energy performance compliance. Its technical requirements also accommodate the many new technologies and construction practices that have emerged in Canada over the past 15 years.

The NECB is an objective-based code with each provision having related objective-based information, including objectives and functional statements as well as intent statements.

The development of the NECB was initiated by the CCBFC in response to stakeholder requests to add a new objective on energy efficiency to the National Model Construction Codes. Based on consultations and a detailed policy analysis, the CCBFC concluded that regulations were an effective tool to support the policy direction of increased energy efficiency for buildings and that a national model code on energy efficiency was justifiable to effectively address an overall objective related to the environment, with a sub-objective focused on resource conservation and future potential sub-objectives on reduced greenhouse gas emissions, infrastructure capacity and energy security, as well as to address the policy goal of harmonization of construction codes across Canada. The CCBFC observed that other tools, such as education, incentives and labeling programs, also contribute to successful achievement of an overall energy efficiency policy.

A key characteristic of the NECB is its overall performance improvement compared with the MNECB. The goal underlying development of its technical requirements was for a 25% improvement over the 1997 Code. The actual target achieved will be 26.2%, as determined in an external consultant's evaluation. This result is a weighted average for the whole country and is based on many factors, including the energy performance level from which a region started. Its impact will be less in regions where energy efficiency construction practice is already higher than that specified in the MNECB and greater for those starting from a lower energy efficiency performance.

Another important characteristic is its flexibility. As with all other national model codes, provinces and territories will be able to adopt the NECB as is or tailor it to suit their particular jurisdictional needs. The CCBFC will offer detailed guidance to those jurisdictions who, for policy reasons, may want to amend the Code.

The NECB addresses the energy used by the building, irrespective of the energy source, with no exemption within the prescriptive requirements for any type of assembly construction. As lighting of unoccupied interior spaces is an unnecessary use of energy, it requires the installation of automatic lighting controls for many applications. It also requires the installation of heat recovery equipment for most occupancy types (the exception being self-contained residential units in some climate zones) as this produces significant energy savings by minimizing the loss of waste heat.

A review of the minimum equipment efficiency standards contained in the Energy Efficiency Act (EEA) for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), as well as service water heating, determined that they were below current industry practice. As a result, the NECB sets a minimum efficiency in the prescriptive path based on the industry's median level for most HVAC and service water heating applications. Reduced equipment efficiencies to the floor level set by the EEA will still be allowed through the code's trade-off or performance compliance approaches.

Prescriptive building envelope requirements set a maximum fenestration-to-wall ratio that varies based on the local climatic conditions (i.e. heating-degree days). The ratio is set at 0.40 for locations with heating-degree days of 4000°C or less, and 0.20 for locations with heating-degree days of 7000°C or more. The ratio for areas with heating-degree days between these two values varies linearly. The NECB allows deviation from this when using the trade-off or performance compliance approaches.

The NECB also contains specific prescriptive provisions in the building envelope trade-off and performance compliance paths to deal with semi-heated spaces.

These major changes will be explained further in free online presentations expected to be available on the national codes website (www.nationalcodes.ca) in January 2012. The NECB will be published on November 18, 2011. To pre-order a copy, please visit the NRC Virtual Store (www.nrc.gc.ca/virtualstore).

For more information, please contact Cathy Taraschuk at 613.993.0049 or e-mail cathleen.taraschuk@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca.

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