Big Move 4: Build zero emission buildings

Big Moves

(zero-carbon operations & low embodied carbon materials)
Goal: By 2030, all new buildings achieve the top step in B.C.’s Energy Step Code, use only low carbon heating systems, and embodied carbon emissions drop by 40%. 

While buildings that already exist today will be responsible for the vast majority of building sector emissions by 2030, it is still important to build new buildings to a high energy and climate standard. Local governments have greater authority for how new construction is developed. And many newly constructed buildings will still be around far beyond mid-century, when Whistler must be near zero emissions.

Whistler has shown early leadership by requiring highly energy efficient buildings. In 2019, Whistler adopted Energy Step Code level 3 to 4 for Part 93 buildings, higher than most other communities in B.C. and Canada. Moving forward, Whistler must broaden the coverage of Energy Step Code to Part 3 buildings, and set a path to adopt the top step of Energy Step Code by or before 2030, which will reduce energy consumption by approximately 80% below current energy code. While highest efficiency buildings might be initially more costly to build, the return over the building life cycle is positive and can be seen as a step toward addressing housing affordability during the occupancy of the building.

Despite prioritizing high energy efficiency in new buildings, the BC Energy Step Code does not currently regulate the use of non-renewable energy sources nor GHG emissions from new buildings. Energy benchmarking and GHG limits need to be addressed through further regulation in tandem with incentives that prioritize low carbon cooking, space heating and hot water heating systems to ensure maximum greenhouse gas reductions in new buildings.

While the B.C. Step Code and low carbon systems address emissions from building operations, the embodied carbon emissions of materials in new buildings can be significant – typically equivalent to and sometimes more than two times greater than operational emissions. Whistler has also seen an increase in greenhouse gas intensive construction practices, such as heating of uninsulated construction projects in the winter, further increasing the emissions footprint of many new buildings.

Lowering embodied emissions will mean shifting to lower carbon materials (e.g. mass timber, lower carbon cement), eliminating spray foam with high carbon blowing agents, less underground parking and living space that is cement-intensive, and increased re-use of materials. 

Key initiatives

1. Adopt progressively higher steps on the BC Energy Step Code to address new building envelope improvements.

2. Collaborate with the Province on low carbon performance requirements and GHG emission limits for new buildings

3. Incentivize low carbon energy systems within new buildings by using regulatory tools such as allowing for higher density or lower step code

4. Provide financial incentives/rebates for testing air tightness during and after construction

5. Promote capacity building opportunities and develop outreach campaigns for step code and low carbon energy systems for the building industry, home buyers, and realtors

6. Discourage carbon-based heating of outdoor spaces such as patio heaters, fossil fuel burning fire pits, heated driveways, outdoor hot tubs and saunas, etc. through policy and/or permit changes

7. Encourage low carbon design (efficient use of materials and optimized spaces), low carbon material use (e.g. mass timber, lower GHG-intensive cement, recycled materials), and low carbon construction practices (e.g. limited construction site heating) of new buildings.

8. Develop roadmap to require embodied carbon calculations for Part 3 buildings as part of permit submissions

9. Build RMOW staff capacity related to embodied carbon emissions

10. Demonstrate RMOW leadership when it comes to new municipal building construction with the goal to develop guidance and inspiration

11. Streamline the municipal building permit process to minimize administrative burden for property owners, developers and RMOW staff due to the additional GHG related tasks

Energy Step Code. Through its early adoption of the Energy Step Code, RMOW is a leader in requiring high levels of energy performance in new residential buildings. Permits are now being issued to this higher energy performance, with 50 per cent of residential buildings requiring Level 3 and the other 50 per cent requiring Level 4. Learn more.
Energy efficient home rebates. 
The RMOW, in coordination with the provincial government, offers homeowners and businesses a variety of rebates and incentives to reduce energy use. Learn more.

Engaging local businesses. The RMOW has commenced outreach and engagement with local businesses, including operators of large commercial buildings, to identify and advance creative climate and clean energy developments. 

WHA energy efficient developments. Significant progress has been made with several Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) developments, including 1020 Legacy Way, which is a Passive House development, and 1330 Cloudburst Drive, which is Energy Step Code 3. These projects offer much needed staff housing while also supporting Whistler’s commitment to compact and transit-connected developments. They are energy efficient and connected to the low carbon District Energy System.

  • Between 4,200 tCO2e and 6,300 tCO2e below 2019 in 2030
  • Between 3% and 5% reduction below Business as Usual in 2030 * 

*Accounts for reductions from a Business as Usual scenario that includes operations emissions of new buildings, not the embodied carbon of building materials. Estimated reductions are based on replacing buildings and reducing the expected new emissions from operating new buildings.

  • Green building policy

Official Community Plan – related goals and policies

Chapter 5

  • 5.4. Goal: Reduce the environmental and energy impacts of residential neighbourhoods to improve the quality of life and sustainability of the resort community

Chapter 10

  • 10.1. Goal: Municipal decision-making is well-structured to achieve energy efficiency goals and GHG reduction targets.
  • 10.3. Goal: Substantially reduce GHG emissions from buildings and infrastructure. 


  • – Support the trades, sub-trades, developers and building community with programs and initiatives designed to increase the uptake of energy efficient residential building designs, programs and technologies in Whistler.
  • – Explore the feasibility for requiring energy modeling for new residential buildings and significant renovations at building permit phase
  • – Maintain and update the RMOW Green Building Policy to require higher energy performance standards during rezoning for new residential buildings.
  • – Explore the feasibility of requiring energy modeling for new commercial buildings and significant renovations at building permit phase.
  • – Support the trades, sub-trades, developers and building community with programs and initiatives designed to increase the uptake of energy efficient commercial building designs, programs and technologies in Whistler.
  • – Update the RMOW Green Building Policy to modernize the framework, and ensure that opportunities to increase energy performance outcomes are identified and leveraged during permit approval and rezoning processes (commercial, institutional and residential).

  • Lead: Building Department
  • Support: Environmental Stewardship
  • Partnerships: BC Energy Step Code, Canadian Homebuilders Association, Whistler Housing Authority 


Climate and Environment

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