Province updates building and fire codes


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The Province adopted the British Columbia Building and Fire Codes (BC Codes 2024) to provide people with a greater level of building safety and to make new buildings more sustainable, resilient and accessible.

"As we take historic steps to build more homes for people faster, we are also taking action to make sure homes are safe, accessible and more resilient to climate change," said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. "We have to find ways to innovate and build differently. Over the next year, the Province will lead a discussion on enabling single-egress stairs in the BC Building Code."

Key updates to the building code will require all new buildings to:

* provide one living space that is designed not to exceed 26;

* have power-operated doors in all building entrances and universal washrooms; and

* have an elevator in all large two- and three-storey apartment buildings.

Additional updates to the building code focus on accessibility, mass-timber construction and radon safety.

"We have seen evidence of extreme weather impacting our province and warmer temperatures because of climate change," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We need to find ways to protect people in B.C., especially those most at risk from being impacted by extreme heat, to have the supports they need to be safe. These adjustments to the BC Building Code are one measure that will help to ensure people in shared spaces have somewhere they can go to on hot days to stay cool and be better protected from hot weather. We know that heat can sneak up on us, so we want people to be as prepared as they can to find cool places when temperatures rise."

Most updates to the building code will come into effect provincewide on March 8, 2024. The implementation window will allow construction and housing-industry professionals more time to review the changes and complete any necessary training. It will also allow an easier transition for housing projects underway.

The updates align with the new Residential Development Act, which includes small-scale, multi-unit housing (SSMUH) legislation that will allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and as many as six units near bus stops with frequent transit service.

The Province is deferring the effective date on the adaptable dwellings and earthquake-design changes to March 10, 2025, to provide a one-year transition period. This will allow the Ministry of Housing to work with interested parties and local governments to develop strategies to implement the new requirements.

"Eliminating barriers to accessibility is a core motive in our efforts to making our province a safe and barrier-free place to live in," said Susie Chant, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. "We are taking action on what we've heard in our engagements with British Columbians, especially people living with disabilities. That is why we are updating the standards in our building code to support everyone in their day-to-day activities."

As the Province updates the building code, it continues to work to identify and review opportunities to support cost-effective and efficient construction of more new homes. The Province, along with fire-safety professionals and national partners, is examining opportunities in codes, including requirements for egress stairs. These opportunities may simplify the design of smaller multi-unit residential buildings and create options for quicker and more affordable construction, while maintaining or enhancing safety.

The BC Building Code is a provincial regulation that governs how a building's construction, alterations and demolitions are required to be carried out. The code establishes minimum requirements for safety, health, accessibility, fire and structural protection of buildings, and energy and water efficiency.

Quotes:

Brad McCannell, vice-president of access and inclusion, Rick Hansen Foundation -

"The Rick Hansen Foundation is pleased to have contributed input into the proposed changes to the BC Building Code. The updates are welcomed by people with varying disabilities and we applaud the Government of B.C.'s continued commitment towards improved meaningful accessibility for people of all ages and abilities."

Larry Clay, chairperson, SAFERhome Standards Society -

"What we build today defines our tomorrow. A tomorrow where everyone, regardless of their age, size, ability or mobility, can enjoy their home. The Province of B.C. stands as an exemplar of innovation, inclusivity and foresight, showcasing the kind of progress imperative for addressing today's evolving housing needs. There is much work ahead and we eagerly anticipate collaborating with the Province of B.C., municipalities and builders, ensuring proper training and implementation to make universal housing a reality for all."

Anne McMullin, president and CEO, Urban Development Institute (UDI) -

"UDI and members of the building industry have actively engaged with the Ministry of Housing over the last year on these changes and we are pleased that the ministry is taking additional time to ensure the seismic and accessibility provisions can be implemented in a cost-effective and efficient way. We look forward to continuing to work with the ministry on opportunities to deliver homes and job spaces quicker and more affordably."

Helaine Boyd, executive director, Disability Alliance BC -

"Disability Alliance BC (DABC) is looking forward to witnessing how these BC Building Code changes will directly impact the lives of people with disabilities in need of accessible housing. We hope that the BC Building Code changes will continue conversations and ultimately contribute to greater social and economic inclusion for people with disabilities in our province."

Quick Facts:

* The changes include updates to Plumbing Systems Book II and adoption of the National Fire Code 2020 as the BC Fire Code.

* The BC Building Code applies across the province, except on some federal lands and in the City of Vancouver, which has its own building bylaw.

* Adoption of the new BC Codes follows an 11-week public engagement on accessibility from October 2021 until January 2022, and a four-week public review in spring 2023, which invited interested parties to review and comment on a variety of proposed building-code changes. A second engagement happened in October 2023 to explore the impact of earthquake-design changes.

* The four-week technical review in spring 2023 resulted in 251 responses, the majority of which indicated that the proposals were clear and buildable.

Learn More:

To learn about the new BC Codes, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/construction-industry/building-codes-standards/bc-codes

To read the summary report on feedback received during early engagement on accessibility, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/construction-industry/building-codes-standards/resources-contactinformation

To learn about the Province's work to digitize the BC Building Code, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0019-000496