Canadian Energy Codes and Regulations to Become More Stringent

Energy codes and regulations in Canada are becoming stricter, with lower U-factor requirements on the horizon. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) hosted a webinar titled, “Canadian Energy Codes and Regulations—Where are They Going?” to give professionals in the industry a better understanding of recent energy trends across the country.

Jeff Baker, president of Westlab and technical consultant for Fenestration
Canada, began his presentation by explaining the difference between codes,
which apply to anything that needs a building permit, and regulations,
which apply to products sold.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was signed in December 2016. In an effort to meet climate goals, the framework was agreed upon by federal, provincial and territorial governments. Goals include:

• Net-zero energy codes for new buildings;
• Energy codes for existing buildings;
• Labeling/disclosure of energy use in buildings; and
• High-efficiency equipment and appliances.


The National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) was first written as a stand-alone document in 2011, then updated in 2015 and 2017. The 2017 update brought U-factor requirements down to 0.37 in Zone 4; 0.33 in Zones 5-7b; and 0.25 in Zone 8.

“For commercial buildings this is going to be a challenge. It is my belief that when they come up with the 2020 update they’re likely to push these down a little farther,” said Baker.

Alberta and Manitoba have adopted NECB 2011, although Manitoba modified the code by reducing the U-factor requirements in Zones 7a and 7b. Nova Scotia has adopted NECB 2015 and Saskatchewan uses the 2017 version of NECB 2015. All provinces use the U-factor requirement for compliance.

British Columbia has a step code, which groups measurable efficiency targets into steps by increasing levels of energy performance. Steps two through four require a full performance calculation to determine energy requirements, rather than a prescriptive requirement. The province’s goal includes reaching net-zero in new construction by 2032. The step code could be included in NECB 2020. It would get rid of prescriptive compliance in favor of full energy modeling and add an air-tightness testing requirement on all buildings. Baker said fenestration suppliers should understand how they’re going to provide detailed performance information to the building energy modelers.

Ontario uses SB-10, which is a complicated mix of the NECB and ASHRAE 90.1.

“The mix results in a range of U-factors that could comply depending on building type, location (climate zone) and frame material type,” said Baker.

Any building not covered by Part 11 in Quebec must comply with an old requirement, created in 1983, that requires double glazing with a 1/2-inch air space, and at least a thermally broken metal frame.

Another major update for the industry to look out for includes the updated Energy Star requirements going into effect January 1, 2020, which will create one zone and performance target for the entire country. While this will simplify Energy Star, it will create much stricter energy targets. According to Baker, many manufacturers are working hard to achieve Energy Star’s upcoming performance requirements.


The British Columbia Energy Act has requirements for both residential and commercial windows. Windows, sliding glass doors, curtainwall, window wall and storefronts must meet a U-factor requirement of 0.32 and skylights must meet a U-factor of 0.55 in order to be sold in the province. Ontario requires that residential windows meet a U-factor requirement of 0.35 to be sold in the providence. They must also be certified.

National Resources Canada is proposing a national energy regulation for windows and sliding glass doors. The regulation, under the federal energy act, would cover any residential windows and sliding doors sold in Canada across a provincial border, or across a national border. The current proposed draft would implement tougher U-factor and energy ratings (ER) over the next six years. Here are the requirements and how they can be achieved:

• 2022: A U-factor of 0.28 or ER of 25.
– Double, low-E, Argon and warm edge spacer with a fixed or operable framing.

• 2025: A U-factor of 0.21 or ER of 24 (also the Energy Star requirement in 2020).
– Double, low-E, plus surface four low-E, Argon and warm edge spacer with a fixed and maybe an operable frame.
– Two low-E coatings, half inch Argon and warm edge spacer with a fixed or operable frame.
– For meeting the ER: double, high-solar-gain low-E, Argon and
warm edge spacer with a fixed and maybe an operable frame.

• 2030: A U-factor of 0.14 or ER of 44. – Will require new technology and redesigned frames.
– For meeting the ER: May be achieved with existing high-solar-gain technology.

“This is a draft, nothing is final,” said Baker. “This is going to push the industry. There are already some manufacturers working on achieving these low U-factors today.”

Code Changes for Commercial Fenestration

Code changes and updates were a big discussion topic during this year’s
Annual Conference organized by the National Glass Association, held in Naples, Fla., in January. During the event, code consultants Tom Culp and Thom Zaremba provided an update on recent code changes that impact the glass, glazing and fenestration industries.

Culp said there has been a major update to commercial fenestration requirements in ASHRAE 90.1, which has been voted for publication. He said they will continue to push for improved framing, warm edge spacers, Argon gas fill and fourth surface low-E coatings, while keeping materials cost effective and practical, without reduction to window area.

He said there was a 5- to 17-percent reduction in U-factor only, and only modest reductions to the solar heat gain coefficient in the new version. Culp added that the 90.1 product categories will match the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) without regard to material type.

He also noted that proposals for trade off limits and thermal bridging will not be in 90.1-2019, but are still being developed. Culp cautioned that the industry needs to be careful about trade off limits due to potential impact in window area. He said trade offs could limit on the building envelope.

The glass industry also submitted four IECC proposals. One proposed aligning the IECC commercial fenestration values with ASHRAE 90.1; another proposed clarifying area-weighted averaging in the commercial energy code. This, Culp said would help clarify compliance for overall façades, such as curtainwalls. In addition, the other two proposals would update the requirements for walk-in coolers and freezers to help ensure vacuum insulating glass can be used in the door glazing.

Zaremba continued the codes discussion, with a focus on some of the Glazing Industry Code Committee’s activities. He said that in 2018 the ICC passed massive changes to the International Building Code that will permit all wood support structures in buildings up to 18 stories.

“What we’ll see is a significant shift in the design and aesthetics in tall buildings,” he said, adding that windows will fit in even better because they won’t just be for views out of the building, but also for viewing in the building.

Zaremba also said they have been successful against efforts by the sprinkler industry that could impact not only the use of fire-rated glazing, but also other building materials. The code language would have allowed of automatic suppression devices instead of fire-resistance rated construction materials in some applications.

Canada is starting to move toward a brand new safety glazing standard that’s closely modeled after ANSI Z 97.1. It’s been approved by the Canadian standards organization, and now the NBC is re-writing provisions on what is a hazardous location, where to use safety glazing, etc.

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