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Better Buildings BC Program

Better Buildings BC: The Net-Zero Energy-Ready Challenge is a provincial incentive program and juried competition designed to support, promote and celebrate the design and construction of net-zero energy-ready buildings. The program provides incentives to builders and developers of multi-family, commercial, and institutional buildings that are designed to achieve the top tier of the BC Energy Step Code. Those targeting the Passive House Institute’s Passive House standard are also eligible to apply. The Province will celebrate the successful applicants as leaders, and showcase the projects that ultimately emerge from the program as leading examples of innovative, energy-efficient designs.


Successful applicants will be celebrated as leaders in innovative building design in British Columbia and showcased to their industry peers and the public as best practices in energy efficient design. Successful applicants will be recognized as leaders in energy efficient construction and will be presented with an award.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible for the Better Buildings BC competition, a project must meet all the following criteria:

  1. The project is located in the province of British Columbia;
  2. The project is a new Part 3 construction project or a major building renovation of a Part 3 building;
  3. An application (e.g. Rezoning, Development Permit) has been submitted to a municipality, and/or the project owner, or an affiliate of the project owner, has secured title to the lands for the project in question or has entered into a binding agreement for the purchase of the lands for the project in question;
  4. The project has not yet received a Building Permit.

(BC Hydro) Major Building Renovations are defined as one of the following for which requires a building permits and certified buildings plans by a licensed professional.

  • Change of use and reconstruction of an existing building space or space within; or
  • Change Construction work of a nature requiring the building or space within to be out of service for at least 30 consecutive days; or
  • The renovations are worth at least 50% of the existing building’s value and impact the building envelope.

Program Structure

The Program offers two sets of financial incentives for net-zero energy-ready buildings: a Design Incentive and a Net-Zero Energy-Ready (NZER) Incentive.

Participants that make it through the first round of evaluation will receive the Design Incentive to help offset the additional costs currently associated with designing a net-zero energy-ready building. The Program has established a sliding scale of Design Incentives (to a maximum of $40,000), based on total building floor area:

Building Area Incentive Amount
Under 5,000m2 ·         $3.50/m2
5,000m2 – 9,999m2 (per additional m2) ·         $1.60/m2
10,000m2 – 24,999m2 (per additional m2) ·         $0.80/m2
Over 25,000m2 (per additional m2) ·         $0.40/m2

Participants who receive a Design Incentive will be required to submit a full Program Application, which will consist of the following elements:

  • An energy modeling report for the project
  • Project energy modelling output files and supporting documentation
  • A project airtightness testing plan
  • A project costing report
  • A measurement and verification plan
  • Project drawings and renderings.

Applications will be subject to review. Successful Applicants will receive the NZER Incentive to help offset the incremental capital cost associated with net-zero energy-ready building construction. The Program has established a sliding scale of NZER Incentives based on building type, as per the following schedule:

Building Type NZER Incentive Amount
Low-Rise multi-family residential ·          $60/m2 to a maximum of $100,000
High-Rise multi-family residential ·          $80/m2 to a maximum of $350,000
Office ·          $10/m2 to a maximum of $250,000
Retail ·          $40/m2 to a maximum of $175,000
Institutional ·          $25/m2 to a maximum of $350,000

Projects that make significant use of wood products in their design and construction may be eligible for targeted incentive funds, made available to the Program by Forestry Innovation Investment.

Expressions of Interest – Off to a Great Start!

Expressions of Interest for Better Buildings BC closed 11:59pm on November 30th, 2018. The Program Administrator is pleased to report that it received 51 complete applications. The applications name more than 170 different organizations as proponents, suppliers, or partners. 

The Program Administrator believes this demonstrates strong industry interest in net-zero energy-ready tall and complex buildings in British Columbia.

Here is a breakdown of the complete applications by building type:

  • High-Rise Residential: 8
  • Low-Rise Residential: 19
  • Office: 6
  • Institutional: 4
  • Mixed-Use: 12
  • Other: 2 

Next Steps: As of early December, the Program Administrator is reviewing the applications and forwarding them to a Technical Review Panel, which will confirm project eligibility for the Design Incentive. The Program Administrator will then invite Eligible Applicants to submit a full Program Application.

Program Documents

All documentation must be submitted to info@betterbuildingsbc.ca.

Frequently Asked Questions


About the Program

Who administers Better Buildings BC: The Net Zero Energy Ready Challenge?
Integral Group Consulting (BC) LLP administers the program. The program was developed and funded by the Province of British Columbia, as represented by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Additional funding has been provided by Forestry Innovation Investment.

How do I submit my Expression of Interest and/or Program Application?
Expressions of Interest and Program Applications should be submitted to the Program Administrator at info@betterbuildingsbc.ca.

Are only buildings that have BC Energy Step Code targets eligible to apply?
No. Part 3 building projects with existing targets under the BC Energy Step Code (i.e. Multifamily Residential, Commercial/Retail Group D & E) must target the highest applicable level of the Step Code to be eligible to apply.

Other Part 3 building projects in BC that are targeting Passive House certification are also eligible, as well as projects located in the City of Vancouver that have targeted the highest level of the City of Vancouver Zero Emissions Building Plan.

Are projects located in the City of Vancouver eligible to apply?

How do you address conflict of interest for members of the Technical Review Panel (TRP) and/or Selection Committee?
To ensure fair review of projects, both TRP and Selection Committee members will not be permitted to review a project that they have been directly or indirectly involved with. The Project Administrator will ensure that all identifying information is removed before Program Applications are submitted for TRP review. Applications will be assigned a code to ensure the anonymity of all applications. Program Applications will be distributed by the neutral Chair to each member of the TRP to ensure that Program Applications are reviewed by a member of the TRP who has not been involved in the project under evaluation. The results of TRP review will be compiled into Selection Committee summary reports that minimize the potential for bias.

In the event that a Technical Review Panel or Selection Committee member is directly involved with the project under evaluation, they will be required to recuse themselves and where necessary, the Program Administrator will identify a replacement with similar skills and expertise.

A neutral Chair will attend both TRP and Selection Committee procedures. All final decisions made by the TRP and Selection Committee will be vetted by the Chair and approved by a representative of the Province.

Who will review my application?
Applications will be scored and ranked by a Technical Review Panel, who will send vetted applications to the Selection Committee for final review. Successful applications will be scored on energy and greenhouse gas emissions performance, cost competitiveness, replicability of design, environmental and social benefits, and overall project aesthetic.

Under what circumstances might a given project or application be rejected?
Applications that are incomplete or that do not meet the requirements of the Program will be rejected. Individual Expressions of Interest and full Program Applications will be reviewed and ranked according to their energy and emissions performance, cost competitiveness, and replicability. Program Applications that are deemed either technically insufficient or fail to meet the criteria used by the Selection Committee will not be successful. For full details on how applications are evaluated, please see the Better Buildings BC Program Manual.


About Net-Zero Energy-Ready Buildings

What is a net-zero energy-ready building?
Net-zero energy buildings produce as much clean energy as they consume. They are up to 80 percent more energy efficient than a typical new building, and use on-site (or near-site) renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need. A net-zero energy ready building is one that has been designed and built to a level of performance such that it could, with the addition of solar panels or other renewable energy technologies, achieve net-zero energy performance.

What is the BC Energy Step Code?
The BC Energy Step Code is an optional compliance path in the BC Building Code that local governments may use, if they wish, to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code. Builders may voluntarily use the BC Energy Step Code as a new compliance path for meeting the energy-efficiency requirements of the BC Building Code. For more information on the BC Energy Step Code, visit energystepcode.ca.

What is the Passive House standard?
Passive House is a rigorous, voluntary standard for improving building energy efficiency. Passive House buildings require very little energy for space heating or cooling while providing comfortable temperatures year-round. For a building to be considered a Passive House, it must meet specific performance thresholds in space heating demand, space cooling demand, primary energy demand, and airtightness. Buildings that achieve the Passive House standard are considered on par with a new-zero energy-ready building. For more information on the Passive House standard, visit passivehousecanada.com.