Scope of construction codes
What is the extent of Canada’s national model codes development system? How many people are involved?
Answer to question 1:
Canada’s national model codes development system involves more than 440 volunteers from across Canada who fill about 1130 active committee member positions on over 90 committees. These volunteers, who are evenly split between three broad interest categories (regulatory, industry and general interest), generally serve on three committees each. For each five-year code cycle, the in-kind value that they contribute, assuming an average of three full-day meetings per year, is close to $20 million.
The CCBFC itself has 27 voting and 17 non-voting members and meets in person at least once annually. Its nine Standing Committees, which average 23 members each, meet twice a year. These in-person meetings rotate to locations across Canada to encourage public attendance and the participation of code users. The CCBFC Executive Committee, which directs business on behalf of the CCBFC, meets as often as needed, often by teleconference. The multitude of task groups and working groups created to address specific issues also meet by teleconference. In sum, about 20 in-person meetings, and over 300 teleconference meetings, are held each year.
In the current code cycle, CCBFC committees are addressing more than 120 approved tasks from the several hundred specific Code Change Requests submitted to the Commission over the last few years. These tasks span a broad range of topics and address new technologies (i.e. insulated concrete forms; exterior insulation and finish systems) as well as safety issues (i.e. asbestos, accessibility in residential units) and national priorities (i.e. higher energy performance requirements in building codes).
Proposed changes are submitted for public review each fall. The number of proposed changes ranges widely from year to year, with some years having only 30-50 while others have more than 200. The 2013 public review, for instance, had 361 proposed changes posted for comment. Every proposed changes includes extensive documentation, from the original request through the analysis and proposal-development stage, the review of public comments and, finally, the CCBFC’s decision on whether or not to approve the change.
New editions of the four major codes (National Building Code, National Fire Code, National Plumbing Code, and National Energy Code for Buildings) are published every five years. The fifth in the series, the National Farm Building Code, was last published in 1995 and is currently under review. In between editions, several technical guides are published to supplement the Codes. Revisions and errata approved by the CCBFC are published in mid-cycle, while emergency changes are released immediately. Several provincial versions of the national codes are also published, through licensing agreements with these jurisdictional authorities.
Who is responsible for regulating construction in Canada? Who provides Code interpretations?
Answer to question 2:
In Canada, it is the provincial or territorial governments that have the authority to enact laws and regulations pertaining to buildings and facilities. Some cities also have this authority through a special relationship with their provincial authority.
The CCBFC develops and updates
Codes Canada publications (National Building Code, National Fire Code, National Plumbing Code, National Energy Code for Buildings, and National Farm Building Code), which are adopted with or without modification and enforced by most provinces and territories. Typically, these jurisdictional authorities delegate responsibility for enforcement to the building, plumbing and fire officials employed in local municipalities. Provincial and territorial authorities having jurisdiction are also responsible for interpreting the codes, providing training and education, issuing permits, conducting inspections, and establishing the roles and responsibilities of trades people and professionals. Individuals seeking a technical opinion on the intent of a requirement in adopted codes should therefore approach the appropriate municipal, provincial or territorial official.
For more information, see Canada’s national model codes development system.
Who establishes the content of the codes?
Answer to question 3:
The CCBFC is responsible for developing and updating the Codes Canada publications. It oversees the work of technical committees, and several task groups, who propose the content of the model codes based on input from its stakeholder community. Committee members are selected from industry, the regulatory community and general interest groups, as well as all relevant sectors and geographical areas of the country, to ensure balanced representation. Changes to the Codes proposed by the committees must be approved by the CCBFC before publication by NRC.
4. What do Codes Canada publications address? What do they not address? Why?
Answer to question 4:
Codes Canada publications set out minimum requirements addressing safety, health, accessibility, building protection, and energy efficiency. Four of the codes (National Building Code, National Plumbing Code, National Farm Building Code, and National Energy Code for Buildings) apply to the design and construction of new buildings and additions. Except for the National Energy Code, these also apply to change of use or substantial renovation of existing buildings. The National Fire Code applies to buildings and facilities already in use and regulates activities that create fire hazards.
The Codes do not address whether a building is aesthetically pleasing or durable since these fall outside the scope of their stated objectives (i.e. safety, health, accessibility, building protection, and energy efficiency). Characteristics of buildings and facilities that might be considered to have a bearing on code objectives, such as addressing psychological health or protection from vandalism, also fall outside the Codes’ stated objectives.
The Codes are not textbooks on building design and construction, or maintenance and operation. They do not list proprietary building products or address situations that arise only rarely. They also do not address administrative issues, such as professional qualifications or compliance certifications, as that could result in conflict with related provincial/territorial legislation and regulations. Lastly, their limited scope means that they have little, if any, application to what is traditionally thought of as “consumer protection”; buyers are considered responsible for protecting their own interests.
For more information, see Guidelines for requesting changes.
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