Today's construction technologies and techniques differ vastly from those in use at the time the first National Building Code (NBC) was produced in 1941. To keep pace with changes, and to ensure that the latest innovations and applications are applied safely by the construction industry, a new edition of the NBC is published approximately every five years. NRC's Codes Canada plays a vital role in this process by providing technical and administrative support to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) and its related committees, which are responsible for the development of Codes Canada publications.
The CCBFC oversees the work of a number of technical standing committees, whose members apply their experience to develop and improve the codes that protect the health and safety of Canadians. Representing all major facets of the construction industry, commission members include building and fire officials, architects, engineers, contractors and building owners, as well as members of the public. They serve as individuals, not as designated appointees of any organization.
NRC, through Codes Canada, ensures that the best available knowledge from across Canada and around the world is brought to bear on the development of the national codes. The unique association between NRC and the CCBFC gives the Commission ready access to NRC scientists, engineers and state-of-the-art facilities, enhancing Canada's position as a world leader in the development of comprehensive, yet practical, construction codes.
Coordinated codes system
The input of provincial governments, municipalities and the construction industry is crucial to the strength of Canada's codes. The current code-writing process has one of the most extensive — and involved — public review procedures in the world. Thorough consultations lead to an improved coordinated approach to code development involving every province, territory and the CCBFC.
Enhancing the code-writing process by coordinating the separate national and provincial public reviews promotes greater participation by the provinces and territories, better stakeholder consultation, and more uniform provincial and territorial codes. The participation of the provinces and territories at every stage of code development streamlines the process and encourages the elimination of differences between the provincial and territorial codes.
While Codes Canada publications have continually improved over the years, they have also become somewhat more complex. The CCBFC has therefore developed an easier-to-understand, easier-to-implement system of objective-based codes, which were first published in September 2005.
By explaining every requirement in terms of its underlying aim, objective-based codes help users understand clearly the reasons behind the requirements. This capitalizes on the flexibility that exists in the current codes: if a new method or technology — one not mentioned specifically under a particular requirement — is shown to achieve the intended purpose, it can be recognized as an acceptable alternative. Therefore, objective-based codes promise to foster a spirit of innovation and create new opportunities for Canadian manufacturers.
An important aspect of the work of Codes Canada lies in helping code users to understand and apply the codes. To this end, Codes Canada, through the CCBFC, provides commentaries, user's guides and online seminars to the construction industry explaining the intent of code requirements. A User's Guide to Part 4 of the 2015 NBC and an Illustrated User's Guide to Part 9 of the 2015 NBC (specific to house construction requirements), as well as Supplements to the 2015 NBC, NFC and NPC (Intent Statements), are available.