Advancing adoption and compliance 

The national model codes are prepared by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) and adopted by the provinces and territories. Enforcement of the model codes, once adopted, is the responsibility of the provincial and territorial authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). 

These two areas, adoption and compliance, are where advocates can act to ensure that their provinces or territories adopt stringent building codes quickly and that building energy performance is improved through compliance.

Use the adoption process to increase the stringency of the building code

Once the national model codes have been developed in full and published by Codes Canada, a province or territory will prepare the review process. This process can take between 1 ½ to 2 years. Advocates can use this process to press forward thinking provinces and territories to re-introduce or increase the stringency of critically important measures as building code amendments, as well as to adopt the upper tiers of the model codes.

During this time, amendments to the national model code may be made by the province or territory to suit that jurisdiction’s unique needs. For example, a province or territory may decide to introduce new measures, say zero-carbon space and water heating standards, or to improve the national model codes by making voluntary measures mandatory, such as airtightness testing for compliance

The adoption process is also an opportunity for advocates to encourage their province or territory to adopt the highest tier within the National Building Code and National Energy Code for Buildings. The tier a province or territory chooses to implement is largely based on evaluations of the jurisdictions readiness, both in terms of the workforce and supply chains for building products and supplies. 

Advocates can use tools like this Toolkit, or those produced for the BC Energy Step Code, to demonstrate that their province or territory is ready to adopt the upper levels of the tiered codes.

 The roles and responsibilities of sub-national governments

  • Have jurisdiction over construction including adoption, enforcement, interpretation as well as training and education of laws & regulations 

  • May require updates of the Building Code Act and Building Code including amendments 

  • Have oversight of building practitioners including: 
      • building officials such as chief building officials, supervisors, managers, plans examiners and inspectors 
      • certain classes of designers 
      • others authorized to conduct inspections.
  • Provide policy advice to CCBFC through the PTPACC.
      • Oversee enforcement of the Building Code Act  and Building Code includes: 
          • setting fees for building permits 
          • reviewing/issuing building permits 
          • enforcement activities including on-site inspections and the issuance of stop work and compliance orders. 
      • Have the power to adopt a municipal property standards by-law that establishes standards for the maintenance and occupancy of properties and may require properties that do not conform to the standards to conform. 
        • Some charter cities, Vancouver for example, have extended powers to develop and implement their own building codes.

        Raise building performance standards through compliance

        Once enacted the provincial building code regulations, referred to in most jurisdictions as The Building Code Act, applies to the administration and enforcement of the Act. It provides standards for the design, construction, erection, placement, and occupancy of new buildings. The Act must then be enforced and compliance ensured by the AHJ. 

        The AHJ is made up of a variety of individuals that includes building code officials, fire marshals and others that are responsible for enforcing the requirements of the building code itself. 

        As noted in Efficiency Canada’s Tiered Energy Codes: Best Practices for Code Compliance, municipalities acting in the role of the AHJ can support compliance via:

          • Assigning energy compliance reviews to a department with energy and the environment expertise, as done in the Toronto Green Standard.
          • Assigning energy efficiency equal weighting compared to competing priorities, such as safety or accessibility. 
          • Allocating additional time for plan review and inspections. 
          • Training building and inspection officials in design, building, and enforcement as well as be provided an understanding of recent code updates. 
          • Linking robust compliance reporting to any potential funding arrangements.

        Advocates can call for additional resources to be dedicated to ensuring their AHJ has a robust compliance framework. With the help of the Tools to take action section of this toolkit, advocates can bring the attention of local officials to the important role building energy code compliance plays in reducing energy waste. 

        Building code adoption by province and territory

        Typically, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the three territories adopt the national model codes with minor variations. Meanwhile, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec each adopt variations of the national model codes with more extensive modifications and additions. 

        Until recently, model code adoption was not a given. For example, Prince Edward Island only adopted the NBC in 2020 making PEI the last province in the country to fully adopt NBC standards. However, in 2020, provinces and territories agreed to begin harmonizing construction codes under the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table (RCT). Under the RCT, suppliers and builders will benefit from greater consistency as provinces and territories harmonize their construction codes by 2025. 

        This project was made possible with funding from The Atmospheric Fund (TAF)

        © Efficiency Canada 2021

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