October 25, 2010

Ontario housing ministry seeks industry input on building code amendments

The Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs is seeking input from construction industry stakeholders on potential amendments to the province’s building code.

“Construction is an important driver of Ontario’s economy,” the ministry said in a consultation paper posted on its website. “In this time of global economic uncertainty, it is important to seek ways to strengthen the construction sector.”

The code sets out technical and administrative requirements related to the construction, renovation, and demolition of buildings. The current edition was released in 2006.

Clive Thurston

Key industry organizations, including the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) the Ontario Association of Architects and Consulting Engineers of Ontario all intend to provide feedback on proposed changes.

Currently being considered are amendments that the ministry said would:

•Lower the cost of construction while ensuring that building code objectives, such as those related to health and safety, are not compromised.

Examples include deleting the requirement for fire hose cabinets in residential buildings and reducing the minimum sizes of water supply piping.

•Remove technical barriers and increase design flexibility while ensuring maintenance of health and safety.

Examples include no longer requiring standpipe risers to be located in an exit-stair shaft or a vertical service space, and permitting composting toilets even where a water supply is available.

•Recognize industry innovation by referencing up-to-date standards.

Examples include introducing new standards for fibrous insulation products that are currently widely used in buildings; and recognizing provisions of a North American-wide standard for elevators by requiring automatic emergency elevator recall for elevators located in certain buildings.

•Decrease uncertainty by clarifying requirements such as what is meant by ‘”fire stop” and “fire block.”

•Consolidate and rationalize construction requirements and increase cross-Canada code harmonization.

An example is harmonizing fire-stopping provisions for small buildings with those large buildings as proposed in the 2010 model national building code.

Changes have also been proposed that would allow the use of “low-carbon” concrete.

The ministry said most of these proposed changes are on the agenda for an initial round of consultations, now underway.

Down the road, a second round of consultations is expected to focus on key areas where changes are still undergoing development.

These include energy and water conservation and barrier-free accessibility.

The ministry said amendments related to energy conservation will take into account advice from a building code energy advisory council. It is expected that these changes will reference the new national energy code for buildings, currently under development.

Changes to the code also could support water conservation by setting stricter water efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures; clarifying existing requirements for rainwater harvesting and improving labelling of piping for non-potable water.

Possible changes related to barrier-free accessibility will take into account a proposed standard submitted by the accessible built environment standards development committee.

OGCA president Clive Thurston said provisions related to accessibility standards for the built environment, as well as energy efficiency, are of particular interest to his organization.

Another “interesting” proposal, expected to be raised during the second round of consultations, would allow for the greater use of wood in mid-rise construction, Thurston said.

Within the design community, Consulting Engineers of Ontario is putting in place a technical team to review the initial consultation paper.

The architects’ association sub-committee on building codes and regulations is undertaking a review of that paper as well.

Some 450 proposed amendments will be considered during the first round of consultations.

The lion’s share reflect changes being made to the model national building and plumbing codes.

The next edition of the province’s building code is expected to be filed with the registrar of regulations by mid 2011.

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