Vancouver eyes 2025 fossil fuel ban

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Low-Rise Residential BuildingsA Vancouver proposal to ban the use of heating appliances fired by fossil fuels in low rise residential buildings by 2025 is drawing extreme concern from the industry.

Covering buildings up to four storeys, the proposed low carbon and energy efficiency updates to the 2021 Vancouver Building By-law for low rise residential buildings would require all space heating and domestic hot water to be zero-emissions on-site under the updated prescriptive path.

For space heating, the proposal, released Oct. 28 by the City of Vancouver planning department, sustainability division, green building, suggests that heat pumps, resistance heating or an electric boiler could be used.

For DHW, the proposal suggests the use of a heat pump water heater, electric resistance water heater or electric boiler. Natural gas cooking stoves and fireplaces would still be allowed. Buildings are also required to have a heat recovery ventilator that is at least 85 percent efficient.

The proposal also includes changes to the building envelope, windows and other factors to improve energy efficiency.

Proposals impractical, says industry

On Dec. 2 the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) wrote a letter to the City of Vancouver stating that while it generally supports the proposals to improve building efficiency, the plan to phase out fossil fuels for space heating and DHW by 2025 is just not practical.

“CIPH is not in favour of the new City of Vancouver target that by 2025, all new and replacement heating and hot water systems must zero emissions on site… Whether it is a residential type building (single or multi-family) or under four stories in new construction or a replacement situation; each will encounter unique characteristics and parameters to provide comfort, efficiency and match consumer expectations.”

Issues that engineers, contractors and building owners will struggle with under the proposal include physical design limitations, affordability, other equipment that will need to be retrofitted as a result of the conversion, high cost to the consumer and long-term experience in multiple climate zones in Canada (which doesn’t favour some of the proposed technologies).

There are other issues. The transition to an electric infrastructure is not well documented, says CIPH. Significant changes will be required in the design and throughout the supply chain. The industry needs time to develop the capacity to deliver products and services related to new technologies. The skilled trades will have to be trained. Consumers will have to be educated and some changes in behaviour will be required.

The CIPH has long worked to harmonize codes and standards across Canada and with the U.S. for the benefit of the industry and consumers alike. Vancouver is once again going in a different direction.

“We believe that this target to eliminate fossil fuel-fired equipment will dramatically reduce consumers’ options for space and water heating systems and will create affordability issues for many residents,” CIPH said in its letter.

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