Other questions

Question 1:

Are power driven nails addressed in the National Building Code?

Answer to question 1:

Until recently, the 2010 National Building Code of Canada (NBC) requirements for nails and other fasteners did not explicitly address nails used in pneumatic fastening tools because the requirements were written before nail guns came into common use. The NBC 2010 was brought up to date in 2012 through the addition of a reference to the ASTM F1667 standard, “Driven Fasteners: Nails, Spikes, and Staples.” This standard, which enables better harmonization with the United States, applies to fasteners driven by hand tools, power tools or mechanical devices that are currently available on the market. Essentially, the nails must comply either with the ASTM F1667 or the CSA B111 standard and, regardless of which standard they comply with, the nails must meet minimum shank diameters specified in Part 9 of the NBC.

The 2012 revisions to the NBC 2010 are available from the Revisions and errata to the National Model Construction Codes web page. An email response will direct you to the download page, from which you can download the document titled “National Building Code of Canada 2010 – Revisions and Errata – Dec. 2012.” The new nailing provisions are detailed in Articles 9.23.3.1., 9.26.2.2., 9.29.5.6. and Appendix Note A-9.23.3.1.(2).

Question 2:

The U.S. will dramatically reduce allowable lead content in plumbing products effective January 4, 2014. Will the National Plumbing Code be revised to require low lead products as well?

Answer to question 2:

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) has considered a request to integrate low-lead content requirements for products addressed in the National Plumbing Code of Canada 2010 (NPC) and its Standing Committee on Building and Plumbing Services has a keen interest in maintaining harmonized solutions across North America.

A new edition of the ASME/CSA standard for plumbing supply fittings requiring the same low levels of lead content as that required for U.S. products was published In December 2012. At the same time, the CSA also published a new edition of a standard that addresses plumbing fittings, which is in line with the same low lead content requirements. Since then, the Standing Committee has reviewed the updated plumbing fittings standards and recommended updating the versions currently referenced in the NPC 2010 to reflect the most current editions. As a result, and subject to approval by the CCBFC, these updates will be published as interim changes to the NPC 2010 by the end of 2013. As with all model code changes, it will be up to the provincial/territorial regulatory authorities to consider when and how to adopt such changes into law.

Question 3:

3. Why are requirements to protect communities from wildfires not in the National Model Construction Codes?

Answer to question 3:

Protection of communities from wildfires falls outside of the mandate of the National Model Construction Codes and currently established Code objectives do not address protection of property from adjacent wild land fires. The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) did receive a request to include such requirements in the Codes and input was sought from the provinces and territories. Based on their feedback, the CCBFC decided that the National Model Construction Codes were not the appropriate mechanism for addressing this issue, as municipalities were in a better position to address it through zoning bylaws. It was noted that some municipalities were following practices introduced by Natural Resources Canada under FireSmart, a program that includes both prevention and mitigation principles to help reduce the risk of wildland fires and protect properties from their devastating effects.

Question 4:

Do the 2010 Codes address fire risk associated with houses built close together?

Answer to question 4:

Yes. Additional fire protection requirements have been introduced in the National Building Code of Canada 2010 relating to the construction of all buildings and houses that are in proximity to one another or to the property line.

For instance, limiting distances (i.e., spatial separations) may need to be increased depending on fire department response times, percentages of unprotected openings in the exposing building face, or construction type. Both exposed soffits and building faces may also require additional protection.

These changes may have an impact on all facets of construction, including how close buildings and/or homes are constructed to each other, the nature of exterior construction materials used, and lot sizes in subdivisions.

Question 5:

Do the 2010 Codes reflect the new Health Canada guideline for radon exposure?

Answer to question 5:

Yes. The new Health Canada guideline of 200 Bq/m3 for indoor radon concentration has been referenced in the Part 9 Appendix of the National Building Code of Canada 2010 (NBC). Engineers and designers are now required to consider radon protection in their designs. Air barrier requirements in Part 9 of the NBC have also been consolidated, and prescriptive measures on providing a rough-in for a future radon mitigation system have been added.

Question 6:

How do the Codes address a sustainable built environment?

Answer to question 6:

Sustainability is not an explicit objective of the National Model Construction Codes. However, many code provisions contribute to a more sustainable built environment and are written with an effort to not create a barrier to future innovation. Also, the National Model Construction Codes do not preclude one from proposing innovative technologies as long as it can be demonstrated that these meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the Codes.

Question 7:

Will the National Codes be revised to allow construction of wood buildings with more than four storeys?

Answer to question 7:

The CCBFC is looking at acceptable solutions in the 2010 National Model Construction Codes that currently limit the height of wood buildings to no more than four storeys. A CCBFC joint task group examined four areas of potential concern (fire protection, emergency response, building and plumbing services, and structural and earthquake design) and determined that height limits could safely be increased to six storeys by introducing new, and modifying existing, protective measures. The related proposed code changes are expected to be submitted for public review in fall 2013. Final changes, if approved by the CCBFC, would be incorporated in the 2015 editions of the National Building and National Fire Codes.

For more information, see the Construction Innovation article “Changes to allow six-storey wood construction under consideration”.

Question 8:

Will the use of water be regulated by the National Codes?

Answer to question 8:

The CCBFC is moving forward on a proposal to add a water use efficiency objective to the National Building and National Plumbing Codes. The proposed water-use efficiency objective is expected to address “excessive use of water” under the umbrella of the environmental objective created in 2011. Technical requirements and functional statements are now under development. Both are expected to be submitted for public review, along with the new objective, in fall 2013. If subsequently approved by the CCBFC, the water-use efficiency objective is expected to be implemented in the 2015 Codes.

For more information, see the Construction Innovation article “Update on adding water-use efficiency”.

Question 9:

The National Farm Building Code dates back to 1995. Will it be updated?

Answer to question 9:

Yes. The CCBFC has made it a priority to update the requirements of the National Farm Building Code of Canada (NFBC), last published in 1995. This decision is supported by the Provincial/Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes (PTPACC) and the Canadian Farm Builders’ Association. A joint CCBFC/PTPACC Task Group reviewed the key issues associated with the changing nature and scale of farm building operations and submitted a report of its recommendations to the CCBFC. The report recommended splitting requirements between small and large farm buildings. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the technical requirements for farm buildings, it also recommended establishing a coordinating committee to oversee the work of the standing committees involved.

For more information, see the Construction Innovation article “National Farm Building Code requirements to be updated”.

Question 10:

Are green roofs addressed by the National Building Code of Canada 2010?

Answer to question 10:

Yes. The structural and building envelope requirements in Part 3, 4 and 5 of the National Building Code of Canada 2010 allow the design of green roofs. Green roofs are not specifically addressed by the acceptable solutions in the National Building Code of Canada 2010; however, they must fulfill the same performance expectations as every other roof design. The CCBFC’s Standing Committee on Environmental Separation has established a task group to investigate the need for more specific requirements for green roof design. The task group is recommending that a requirement related to protection against root penetration be added to the Code and that specific guidance related to fire protection be added to the Appendix. Other Standing Committees are also reviewing the task group’s recommendations as well as their respective Code provisions for potential further revisions. For example, the Standing Committee on Housing and Small Buildings is currently discussing adding a reference to Part 5 for the design of roofs not prescriptively covered in Part 9 of the NBC.

Following consideration of public review comments, final proposed changes will be submitted to the CCBFC and, if approved, will be included in the 2015 editions of the Codes. Individuals wishing to suggest other Code provisions related to green roofs can submit a code change request online at any time for consideration by the CCBFC’s committees.

Designers can also propose their green roof designs as an alternative solution to their respective provincial/territorial authorities. Manufacturers of green roofs can have their products or systems assessed for code compliance by the NRC Canadian Construction Materials Centre.

Question 11:

What level of earthquake are Canadian buildings supposed to be able to withstand under the National Building Code of Canada 2010?

Answer to question 11:

This question (what magnitude is the building designed for) is commonly asked but, unfortunately, a simple answer cannot be given. Currently in Canada, we design our buildings to withstand a certain level of shaking – the expected shaking from earthquakes that are likely to occur at a probability of 2% in 50 years, which is roughly once in 2,475 years. The effect on the building in question depends on the magnitude of the earthquake, its distance from the building, and the building's characteristics. For the three largest cities in Canada, here’s what this means.

In Montreal, the probability of an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 7.5 is vanishingly small. At the National Building Code probability levels, the main contributors of shaking for short structures, such as single family homes, are earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 to 6.5 that are 30-40 km away, while high-rise structures must withstand magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 that occur at distances of 30-60 km.

Similarly, in Toronto the models allow for magnitudes in the range of 7.0 to 7.5. Short structures are more affected by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake occurring at a distance of 30-50 km, while for high-rises the main contributors are magnitude 7.0 events no closer than 50 km away.

In Vancouver, the expected shaking from three sources of earthquakes is taken into account: those from the continental North American plate; earthquakes in the subducting Juan de Fuca plate (at depths of 40-60 km beneath Vancouver); and the very large, infrequent earthquakes of the Cascadia subduction zone. It is only these Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes that can result in a large magnitude 9 event, such as the recent Japanese earthquake, and they only occur in Canada in the vicinity of Vancouver Island. For Vancouver, this Cascadia event occurs roughly 140 km away, and so its effect is diminished by this distance. The main contributors to shaking at NBC probabilities for Vancouver structures are magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 events at 50-70 km distance.

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