Alberta Energy Code Update: What’s New?

The new (2023) Alberta Building Code will come into effect on May 1, 2024​​ and with it comes implementation of the 2020 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings.  Here’s a high level overview of important and notable updates.:

  • More stringent default performance requirements for glazed assemblies,
  • The option to employ whole building airtightness testing as an energy compliance strategy, and 
  • A new tiered framework that will be used for ratcheting performance targets in the years to come.

Building Envelope 

The prescriptive requirements for opaque envelope assemblies haven’t moved much; however, the shift to a lower U-value requirement for glazed assemblies (from USI-1.90 to USI-1.73) signifies a major push towards improving the thermal performance of windows, particularly in the context of commercial glass. To meet these enhanced standards, the adoption of triple glazing, low-emissivity (low-E) coatings, and the incorporation of inert gas fills between panes will become more prevalent. These technologies contribute to the window’s insulative properties and overall thermal performance but will also increase costs.

Whole Building Airtightness Testing: An Optional Strategy

The NECB 2020 introduces whole building airtightness testing as an optional compliance path, acknowledging the critical role of airtight construction in energy efficiency. This method evaluates the building’s envelope integrity, aiming to minimize uncontrolled air leakage. Early planning and detailed construction are essential to ensure success in meeting the desired airtightness levels, presenting both challenges and opportunities for innovation in building design and construction practices.

The Introduction of Tiers: Preparing for the Future

A significant addition in the NECB 2020 is the introduction of a tiered framework for energy efficiency, setting the stage for future enhancements in building performance standards. This approach allows for a graduated implementation of energy-saving measures, facilitating a seamless transition towards more sustainable building practices over time.

Key Recommendations for Project Success

Engaging energy consultants early in the design phase of a building project continues to be the best strategy for ensuring projects are on track from the get-go to achieve the energy targets.  

Early-stage energy modeling provides architects and engineers with valuable insights into how different design choices affect a building’s energy performance. This can influence decisions regarding building orientation, envelope properties, window-to-wall ratios, and the selection of materials, ensuring that the building design is optimized for 

Identifying the most effective energy-saving strategies early in the design process can lead to significant cost savings. Energy modeling can pinpoint opportunities for reducing energy demand through passive strategies, such as natural lighting and ventilation, which can reduce the need for expensive mechanical systems. Furthermore, it can help avoid costly redesigns by identifying potential issues before construction begins.