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New building codes spark heated debate at North Cowichan Council

A growing number of municipalities are looking to adopt BC’s Zero Carbon Step Code, in North Cowichan, a local group is calling on council to adopt the new building codes sooner rather than later. 

The step code is a set of tools that municipalities can use to create bylaws that require new buildings to have lower carbon emissions and even be fully electrified. While it calls for a reduction in emissions, the codes would allow for backup heating powered by natural gas or wood-burning stoves. 

Cowichan Climate Hub is calling for council to adopt the new regulations, citing the negative effects of leaking natural gas in enclosed spaces. 

“There’s increasing evidence that fossil gas consistently leaks into the indoor air of homes heating or cooking with gas. Forty-one studies showed children living in homes with gas stoves had a 24% higher risk of lifetime asthma.” Says Jane Kilthei a representative of the Climate Hub who was speaking on behalf of Regional Health Officer Dr. Shannon Waters. 

Their hope is that when fewer buildings use natural gas as a heat source, fewer people will be exposed to its harmful side effects. 

However, there is pushback from some residents who think it’s an overstep.

“This is a democracy, the people of this valley don’t want this rule. It’s not your right to tell me how I can heat my home,” says Chemainus Resident Paul O’Rorke.

Council will hear a staff report on the Step Code at the beginning of October. 

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