What Are Building Codes
A mix of acts, regulations, by-laws, codes, standards, municipal design guides, and—to some extent, by reference—even manufacturer's specifications, collectively make up what is colloquially referred to as, the "building code". This body of documentation defines a minimum standard for the construction of new buildings.
Provincial Establishment of Building Codes
Building codes are established by provincial authorities, with federal input via the National Research Council of Canada's (NRC) Canadian Codes Center which publishes model codes. The NRC model building codes are: the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB), National Building Code of Canada (NBC), National Fire Code of Canada (NFC), and National Plumbing Code of Canada (NPC). Other codes are created by associations, including the Canadian Standard Association's (CSA), which produces the Canadian Electrical Code, C22.1; and the United States of America National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which produces the Life Safety Code, 101.
The codes produced by these standards bodies may be adopted, in whole or part; or copied and modified (often substantially); to meet specific provincial requirements. Ontario has made the most modifications, while Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec have generally made additions. The remaining provinces have adopted some or all of the building, plumbing, and fire codes with Newfoundland and Labrador taking the unusual step of partially adopting of the building code. These article will review the codes adopted by Newfoundland and Labrador and discuss where some confusion may exist as to which code may apply.
Application of Building Code in Newfoundland and Labrador
New Construction, Building Rehabilitation, and Existing Structures
In most circumstances, the application of building codes does not require changes; meaning repair, renovation, modification, or reconstruction; of existing buildings, unless additional construction occurs (see building rehabilitation below).
New Construction and Building Rehabilitation
New construction must adhere to adopted codes. In Newfoundland and Labrador, legislation adopting published codes include the provincial legislation: The Fire Protection Services Regulations, Building Accessibility Act, Buildings Accessibility Regulations, and Building Standards Act; and applicable municipal building by-laws.
Where existing buildings are rehabilitated, the application of codes are complicated and depend on many factors, including the occupancy, scope of construction, age, building materials, and size. The occupancy, which is a basic function or use, and includes education, health care, residential, and business, among others; the age, including historical designations; and the scope of the construction, which includes repair, renovation, reconstruction, and extension; have the greatest impact on applicable codes. Building materials and size affect the requirements within the applicable codes which were determined by the previous factors.
Fire protection, accessibility, and public safety legislation determine many of the code requirements. Then the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) may make additional requirements.
Fire Protection Services Regulations
The provincial Fire Protection Services Regulations adopts the National Building Code of Canada, 2010 edition, for the construction of all buildings except Part 9, "Housing and Small Buildings", where relative to one and two family dwellings, within Group C (i.e. "residential occupancies"). Existing buildings must meet the requirements of the National Fire Code of Canada, and applicable chapter of the National Fire Protection Association, Document 101, known as the "Life Safety Code", for the use and operation of all buildings. The regulation permits changes to existing buildings that maintain or improve the health, safety, and well-being of occupants in existing buildings, without requiring full compliance with the adopted codes (exceptions may apply). However, the AHJ may make additional requirements, as mentioned above.
Houses: the building code is not adopted for the construction of, and the life safety code is not adopted for the use and operation of houses: by this regulation. For those types of buildings, it is necessary to consult other provincial legislation, as well as any city or town by-laws.
Section 3 of the Regulations: Codes adopted
3. (1) The following codes are adopted with the additions, alterations or changes as directed by and described in the schedule:
(a) for the construction of all buildings
(i) the National Building Code of Canada , 2010 edition, except Part 9 where relative to one and 2 family dwellings within Group C, and
(ii) the National Fire Code of Canada, 2010 edition; and
(b) for the use and operation of all buildings, processes, areas and vehicles
(i) the National Fire Code of Canada, 2010 edition, and
(ii) the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, 2009 edition, as published by the National Fire Protection Association.
(a) Division A, subsection 188.8.131.52 of the National Building Code of Canada, 2010 edition and the National Fire Code of Canada, 2010 edition; and
(b) Division B, Subsection 1.3.1 of the National Building Code of Canada, 2010 edition and the National Fire Code of Canada, 2010 edition
the standards referenced in all codes adopted by these regulations shall be the current editions of those standards at the date these regulations come into force.
(3) Where, after the coming into force of these regulations, referenced standards in codes adopted by these regulations change or are updated, those standards are adopted 6 months following the date of their publication.
Buildings Accessibility Act
Note: As of December 2017, this Act is under review and may be replaced in the near term.
The Buildings Accessibility Act incorporates the text of the 2005 National Building Code of Canada. Unfortunately, that text is generally less stringent than the text of the 2010 edition which leaves some room for improvement to minimum acceptable designs (and causes some debates in design groups!). However, since the act does not apply to buildings existing on December 24, 1981, with the exception of buildings, or class of buildings, that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may prescribe by regulation, deviations from these requirements are not a failure to meet a specific requirement. The Buildings Accessibility Regulations do, however, apply to the reconstruction of an existing building where the cost of reconstruction of the building is equal to or exceeds 50% of the cost of erecting a new building of the same character and dimensions. Where this gets confusing is that the fire protection regulations also adopts accessibility codes in that they are part of the National Building Code of Canada, 2010, and that it does not exempt pre-1982 buildings.
The general rule of thumb here is that the most stringent code that may reasonably by applied, applies. Ultimately, it may take some intervention to remove the ambiguities.
Building Standards Act (or Lack Thereof)
The Building Standards Act applies to the entire province, except the City of St. John’s and most municipalities. The act allows for regulations to be made, and building codes adopted, however no record exist of any orders or regulations made under section 3 of the Building Standards Act (Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, 2013).
Summary of Building Code in Newfoundland and Labrador
The fire protection legislation applies to new, commercial, buildings; and the building standards legislation could apply to all buildings (but no order was reported when questioned). Therefore, the question of what building codes applies to old commercial buildings, or one and two family houses, depends on the local municipality.
Municipal Establishment of Building Codes
The City of St. John’s has declared that the National Building Code of Canada, National Fire Code of Canada, National Plumbing Code, and the Life Safety Code, and its supplements, are taken as part and parcel of the Building By-Law and Plumbing By-Law, and is applicable to all buildings. Where conflicts exist, the National Research Council model codes take precedence over the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) document.
The City of Mount Pearl has declared that the National Building Code of Canada, National Fire Code of Canada, National Plumbing Code, and the Life Safety Code, and its supplements, are taken as part and parcel of the Building By-Law and is applicable to all buildings.
The town of Paradise restates that the provincial building and fire regulations as well as any applicable municipal regulations shall apply to the Paradise Municipal Planning Area. If further requires the National Building Code of Canada, Fire Code of Canada, and all ancillary codes and regulations, shall also apply to the entire Paradise Municipal Planning Area. It is not clear what ancillary codes and regulations exist, nor does it address future revisions of the national model codes.
Conception Bay South
The town of Conception Bay south has declared that the National Building Code of Canada, National Fire Code of Canada, National Plumbing Code, and the Life Safety Code, and its supplements, are taken as part and parcel of the Building By-Law and is applicable to all buildings.
The City of Corner Brook has declared that the National Building Code of Canada 2005, and National Plumbing Code 2005 are taken as part and parcel of the Building By-Law and is applicable to all buildings.
Add Your Comments
Why not continue the discussion by adding your comments below? Have you been told, "that's not up to code" and wondered why? ...or if it was even true? I'd love to learn what situations you have encountered, or questions you have run into! Those questions and answers will form the basis of Building Codes In Newfoundland and Labrador, Part 2. Thank you!