Canadian buildings and infrastructure, now more than ever, face risks associated with the potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.
Current systems are designed based on historical data, and were not intended to accommodate future extreme weather events associated with climate change. As damaging floods, droughts, heat waves and high winds increasingly stress the built environment, the need to adapt our buildings and infrastructure to withstand new climate loads becomes more pressing.
In response to our new reality, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Infrastructure Canada have undertaken a ground-breaking project to update building codes, specifications, guidelines and assessment tools to help keep Canadians safe and resilient to our changing environment.
Investing in a climate-resilient future
In 2016, the NRC and Infrastructure Canada launched the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (CRBCPI) Project. This important initiative supports the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
Through this five-year initiative, the Government of Canada is investing $40 million to integrate climate resiliency into building and infrastructure design, guides and codes. The results will inform future infrastructure builds and rehabilitation work in Canada.
The NRC's unique expertise
The NRC is uniquely positioned to undertake this forward-looking project. Leveraging internationally recognized research capabilities and facilities, the NRC has world-class expertise in infrastructure and building science. On site, the NRC can test and monitor a wide array of infrastructure systems, including: wastewater systems, building façade and roof resiliency, bridge design, ocean, coastal and river engineering and fire research.
In addition to its testing facilities and research expertise, the NRC's Codes Canada provides technical and administrative support to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) which is responsible for the development of Canada's National Model Construction Codes. To support the CCBFC and standards organizations in code, standard and guideline development, the NRC will conduct research, evaluations and risk analyses to develop new solutions that factor climate resilience into the design of buildings, roads, bridges, water system and rail transit.
Progress to date
2017 focused on the engagement of expert researchers and consultants to prepare a detailed project plan across five domains: buildings, bridges, roads, wastewater and rail transit.
One year into the CRBCPI project and Canada is already benefitting. The NRC's team performed a state-of-the-art research gap analysis, identifying the best path forward to achieving climate resilience. This analysis covered the fundamental area of climate data, and undertook activities across each of the following domains:
Work is already underway to develop new climate design data incorporating the potential impact of climate change, and to improve our understanding of expected loads on buildings from rain, wind and snow due to extreme weather and climate change. This research is in direct support of the development of building codes, guidelines and standards.
The NRC is currently forming task groups, engaging stakeholders and other government departments to develop guidelines in the areas of overheating in buildings, building design for flooding resilience and wildfire-urban interface design.
Bridges and roads
Work is underway to inform the update of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code to account for our changing environment, and improve the long-term performance of new bridges.
Supporting research has been undertaken to understand the impact of climate change and extreme weather events on design, life cycle performance and rehabilitation of bridges and roads, including the impact of climate change on the durability of materials. Guidelines will be prepared on the adaptation of existing bridges and roads to changing climate hazards.
Wastewater and stormwater
Storm sewers and their related drainage systems are the most vulnerable types of water systems in southern Canada, particularly to extreme rainfall and flooding. Guidelines are being developed for the adaptation of existing storm water management systems to reflect climate change and to prevent flooding of urban areas and the discharge of untreated floodwaters. The role of natural infrastructure in strengthening Canada's resilience to climate change is also being examined.
In consultation with the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), three key climate change adaptation research areas are being explored. The first is the creation of guidelines for adapting underground rail systems to prevent flooding. The second is the creation of guidelines for improved track design. And lastly, the NRC will explore monitoring protocols for resilience to the effects of extreme weather.
Recognizing the significance of the challenge presented by climate change to Canada, the project engages stakeholders from across government and industry sectors to collaborate for a more climate-resilient future.
Stay tuned for ongoing project updates as the NRC takes the lead in developing building codes and guides to prepare Canada for a changing climate.