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Building Bylaw 2019

Understand the requirements for low-rise homes in Vancouver.



Note: This page will focus on low-rise residential buildings.​ For other requirements, see the official code document.

The Vancouver Building Bylaw offers 3 ways for to qualify for a permit:

  1. Prescriptive Path

    • Meet or exceed the code prescribed targets for all building components​.

  2. Performance Path

    • Meet overall targets for energy demand and energy use, as modeled by an energy advisor.

  3. Passive House Path

All 3 paths require help from a certified energy advisor. Keep reading to learn more about each path or contact our team for a free consultation.

Prescriptive Path

This path includes specific targets for building components, such as:

  • Insulation values for wall and ceiling assemblies

  • U-factors for windows and doors

  • Performance metrics for heating, cooling, hot water, and ventilation equipment

  • Air tightness, measured by a blower door test. Maximum 2.5 ACH₅₀.

To qualify, you must meet all of these targets. Many increase with floor area.


The house to be modelled by an energy advisor, but only for documentation.


For details, see the VBBL Update Guide, or contact our team to speak with an expert.


Prescriptive Path - Additional Notes 

  • Most straightforward path, but can be inflexible and expensive.

  • Triple-glazed windows are effectively mandatory.

  • Gas-fired heating and hot water are not allowed, with an exception for fireplaces.

  • Requires an air leakage test and an energy model for documentation. This will require involvement from an Energy Advisor.

  • For houses over 3500 sqft, you must provide Energuide calculations to show your greenhouse gas footprint is no greater than that of a 3500 sqft house.

Performance Path

This path introduces targets for overall building performance. 3 categories:

  1. Envelope performance, measured with TEDI.

  2. Mechanical performance, measured with MEUI.

  3. Emissions performance, measured with GHGI.

To qualify, your building must meet the minimum targets in all 3 categories.

This path also has many minimum targets, but introduces flexibility in these areas:​

  • Roof assembly insulation

  • Window U-factor.

  • Fuel source of heating and hot water equipment

Working with an energy advisor, this option can save you a lot of money, especially on windows.

For details, see the VBBL Update Guide, or contact our team to speak with an expert.


Performance Path - Additional Notes

  • Provides flexibility for envelope building components, which can reduce cost.

  • Can be met using double-glazed windows.

  • Compliance is based on meeting TEDI, MEUI and GHGI targets

  • Requires an air leakage test and an energy model, completed by an Energy Advisor

  • Gas-fired heating and hot water are allowed, but are still not possible for most homes. 

Passive House Path

The Passive House Standard is an international program for high-performance construction.


This path is much more stringent than the other options, but may allow for increased flexibility in:

  • Floor area

  • Building height and depth

  • Setbacks

  • External design features

For details, see the VBBL Update Guide, or contact a local Passive House specialist.

Passive House

Passive House - Additional Notes

  • Subject to achieving Passive House Certification through third party verification

  • Performance will far exceed the prescriptive values of the 2022 VBBL Update

  • Much more expensive than other paths, and there may be limitations on product availability suitable for Passive House

  • Requires additional consultants on the project (Passive House Consultant) and verifiers (Passive House Certifier)

  • Gas-fired appliances allowed


Low-rise residential building: similar to the BC Building Code Part 9. Formally defined as a residential building with:

  • A maximum of 2 principle dwelling units, or

  • A maximum of 3 storeys in height (does not include basements)

U-Factor: a measure of heat loss, used primarily in windows. A low U-Factor indicates high performance. U-Factor is the inverse of R-value, an insulation metric used for other building components.

TEDI (Thermal Energy Demand Intensity): is a measure of envelope efficiency. It is based on how much annual energy output is required to condition the home.

MEUI (Mechanical Energy Use Intensity): measures envelope and equipment efficiency. It is based on how much annual energy input is required to condition the home. MEUI requirements vary by climate zone and floor area.

GHGI (Greenhouse Gas Intensity): measures the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a building's energy use, over the course of a year.

ACH₅₀ (Air changes per-hour at 50 Pa): a measure of a home's air tightness. ACH is tested with a blower-door for Step Code compliance. ACH₅₀ requirements vary only by step level.

Energy Advisor: responsible for assessing the energy performance of residential homes. Certified by Natural Resources Canada, the advisor can also give advice on efficient and cost-effective designs for construction and renovation.

Energy Audit: an assessment of a home's energy performance. This is done with a computer model of a home's envelope and equipment, as well as an airtightness test with a blower-door. For new homes in Vancouver, audit activities may take place during design, construction, and as-built compliance.


Registered Energy Advisors
all low-rise residential

Step code advisor

Building outside Vancouver?

BC municipalities require up to three

Step Code energy reports.

We handle them all.​​

Tell us about your project.

Book directly over the phone or

submit our online form.

Metro Vancouver - Surrey - Richmond - Burnaby - Langley - Sunshine Coast - Squamish - Whistler BC

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