Canadian Consulting Engineer

New Canadian Building Codes have 400 changes

January 28, 2016

All buildings will have to be designed for earthquake considerations, and cooling towers are now included in National Energy Code

Engineers should prepare for 400 changes coming this spring in the 2015 versions of Canada’s National Building Code, National Fire Code, National Plumbing Code and National Energy Code for Buildings. The National Research Council of Canada, which is in charge of the codes, has outlined some of the changes in advance. They have also announced that from now on the four codes are collectively referred to as “Codes Canada.”

Among the technical changes in the new version of the National Building Code are new hazard values for seismic design in Part 4 and Appendix C. The updates apply to 679 geographic locations and are based on recent earthquake data. Notably also, all buildings in Canada will now be designed for earthquake forces regardless of the level of hazard. However, a simplified approach to the calculations is being provided exclusively for low hazard locations.

In Part 3 there are new accessibility requirements, and in Part 5 new metrics for sound transmission.

Housing and small buildings in Part 9 have new prescriptive requirements regarding earthquake loads to complement changes in Part 4, as well as new roofing, damp-proofing and waterproofing standards. Other significant changes affect stairs, ramps and handrails.


In the National Energy Code for Buildings 2015, over 90 changes are being introduced. Common equipment types that were not included in the Energy Code previously are now incorporated, including heat rejection equipment such as cooling towers and standalone condensers. There are also changed requirements relating to piping and duct insulation, and to demand control ventilation systems for enclosed semi-heated or conditioned spaces where fuel-powered vehicles or mobile equipment are used intermittently.

Other changes in the Energy Code include updating lighting power density values to comply with levels recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society, and changes to the HVAC equipment efficiency table to improve clarity.

Several changes in National Fire Code relate to the well publicized (and controversial) decision to allow construction of six-storey buildings using traditional combustible construction (engineered wood). Previously the codes would only allow combustible construction for buildings up to four storeys. To address the risks new measures are required to address the risk of injury due to fire and structural collapse — both during construction and in the finished building.

The Fire Code also has new requirements to have non-combustible exterior cladding, or systems that comply with CAN/ULC S134, “Fire Test of Exterior Wall Assemblies.”

There are also changes related to dangerous goods classifications and protection requirements for working with hot works.

Changes in the 2015 National Plumbing Code include water-use efficiency requirements for fixtures, and provisions for the fact that more plumbing systems are using stainless steel.

The national codes are precedent setting for the provincial building codes, which are implemented by law. New code versions are issued periodically to update them and make sure they are “responsive to new technologies, materials, construction practices, research, social policy, and the changing needs of Canadian society.”

Codes Canada will be announcing the release of the new codes via social media and on its website. To order a copy of Codes Canada 2015, click here.



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