Building Code Updates

The Province has updated the B.C. Building Code to enable construction of 12-storey wood buildings and to allow secondary suites in side-by-side multi-family buildings. The Building Code updates also include additional safety requirements and new Energy Step Code requirements. 

Specific changes related to secondary suites include:

·     Allowing secondary suites in side-by-side multi-family buildings including duplexes, townhouses and row houses. The changes will not apply to apartment buildings where units are above or below each other. 

·     New regulations to require fire separations between residences.

·     Maximum size restrictions have been removed.

Other changes to the Building Code include:

·     Enabling local governments to allow 12-storey wood buildings, up from the previous limit of six stories. Thirteen communities have signed on to be early adopters of tall wood buildings using mass timber. 

·     Energy Step Code requirements for public sector buildings such as hospitals, schools, community centres and university classrooms.

·     Requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in commercial and assembly buildings such as schools and offices.

·     Increased lighting in recycling rooms.

·     Additional requirements for fire alarms and exits on roof top enclosures such as patios.

The changes will apply to building permit applications on or after December 12, 2019. 

The changes are broadly consistent both with UBCM resolutions and recommendations in UBCM’s housing report. With regards to secondary suites, members endorsed resolution 2007-B69, which called for the Province to enable Councils to vary the maximum floor area restrictions in the Building Code. While the current changes did not grant this authority, the restrictions have now been removed.

On wood buildings, UBCM’s housing report recommended the promotion of wood-frame construction both as an economical form of mid-density construction, and through government financing to showcase B.C. wood products more generally. After six storey wood frame residential buildings were initially allowed by the Province, members endorsed resolution 2010-B116 that called for the establishment of additional qualifications for professionals involved in the construction of six storey wood frame residential buildings to address news design elements and construction techniques. UBCM does not have policy on wood frame buildings taller than six storeys.

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