Canadian Consulting Engineer

No door on the washroom? No need for windows in the living room?

Some dramatic changes are coming to building codes near you, according to a presentation at Construct Canada in Tor...

December 19, 2003   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Some dramatic changes are coming to building codes near you, according to a presentation at Construct Canada in Toronto, December 3.
Alec Antoniuk of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing described just a few of the proposed changes to the National Building Code of Canada — including one to remove the requirement for doors on bathrooms in residences. Another proposal is to require unisex bathrooms in public washrooms so that fathers can look after their children.
The code administrators, Antoniuk explained, are trying to strip down the National Building Code requirements to only those that have a direct effect on health and safety. They want to leave other requirements that they deem are more a matter of convenience than life safety to the dictates of the market place.
In all, there are 700 proposed changes to the National Building Code, plus another 200 proposed changes to the National Fire Code. The National Building Code is a model code that is adopted by many provinces, although Ontario and others develop their own versions. The revisions to the national code that pass muster at the next review stage are expected to be published in 2005 and come into force by 2006, said Antoniuk.
To make things more complex for designers, the code changes will come in conjunction with a parallel system of performance based codes being introduced for the first time. And in Ontario building designers will also be finding their way through a brand new administration system that requires them to certify as knowledgeable in the codes.
The changes to the national code were posted for public comment last spring and are now being reviewed by technical committees.
Among some of the other most striking proposed national code changes are the elimination of the requirement for windows in principal rooms of residences (Ontario has rejected this proposal on the grounds that having a view to outdoors is a health issue).
Antoniuk also said that the national code administrators are considering removing the requirement for minimum door widths. Ontario, however, is arguing that minimum door widths are necessary for firefighter access (never mind the fact that we’d all be buying and selling furnished houses as we wouldn’t be able to move stuff in or out!).
Structural engineers would be affected by extensive changes to Part 4.1.8 related to earthquake engineering, said Antoniuk. Dynamic analysis could become the default method, and the code committees are also recommending the adoption of 50-year climatic data for snow and wind loads.
“If the changes go through,”Antoniuk suggested, “they will have a tremendous impact.”
In terms of fire protect there are proposals to harmonize the requirements for atria to make the national code more in line with Ontario’s, as well as changes affecting firewalls, party walls, combustible materials, and fire alarm systems (one proposal to have voice communication systems in big box stores has been rejected). Another proposal still being investigated is to have visual signal devices in 10% of motel and hotel suites.

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