Canadian Consulting Engineer

The 2010 Codes – Heads Up

August 1, 2013
By By Andr矌aroche, Eng., National Research Council of Canada

The 2010 National Model Construction Codes, published by the National Research Council of Canada on behalf of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, contain nearly 800 technical changes. These address technological advances as well...

The 2010 National Model Construction Codes, published by the National Research Council of Canada on behalf of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, contain nearly 800 technical changes. These address technological advances as well as health and safety concerns.

Under the Canadian constitution, the regulation of building construction and fire safety is the domain of the provinces and territories. To become law, the National Model Construction Codes must be adopted by these jurisdictions, who may use them “as is” or make modifications (see Figure 1).

Outlined here are significant changes in two of the 2010 code documents: the National Building Code of Canada (NBC) and the National Fire Code of Canada (NFC).

Fire alarm systems and exit signs. Statistics have shown that fires originating in sleeping rooms within dwelling units are the second highest cause of fire deaths in homes. Prior to the 2010 Codes, smoke alarms were required only in corridors outside sleeping rooms. This sometimes caused delays in notifying occupants of a fire, especially when the bedroom doors were closed.

A smoke alarm is now required in every bedroom of a home. It was also determined that people would benefit from having signs that were language independent and internationally recognized. As a result, the previous requirement for red exit signs with letters was replaced with the green running man pictogram and directional arrow. Recognition of the use of photoluminescent technology for signs was also introduced.

Hazardous materials and activities moved to NBC. Historically, the NFC addresses hazards and potential risks caused by hazardous materials and activities. The safety measures required by the NFC, however, were often missed at the building design stage. In the 2010 Codes, most building design requirements from the NFC were relocated into the NBC, except for spill control measures. Cross-references were also added in the NFC to maintain the application of building design requirements to existing buildings and to help building and fire inspectors.

Storage of flammable and combustible liquids. This was the main focus of the 2010 NFC changes. Several revisions were made to the construction requirements for both underground and above-ground storage tanks, as well as to piping systems in order to reduce leakage. The construction of underground storage tanks and piping systems must now be double-walled, and the capacity of above-ground storage tanks (i.e. at fuel dispensing stations) was revised based on current practices in Canada.

Secondary suites. Previous versions of the NBC addressed secondary suites within Part 9 using the same criteria for duplex and semi-detached dwelling units. However, the applicable code provisions often imposed additional construction and safety requirements for secondary suites compared to those for a single family dwelling. Several provincial and municipal jurisdictions also had specific requirements for secondary suites but there was little consistency across the jurisdictions. To encourage greater uniformity, the NBC requirements were revised and included a new definition for secondary suites as well as new area limits and fire protection measures. Examples of the requirements for a house with a secondary suite include an exemption from providing two separate exits, and for a party wall on the property line to be a firewall, smoke-tight barrier in lieu of a fire separation between suites. Another requirement is for wired smoke alarms so that the activation of any one smoke alarm causes all the smoke alarms in the house with a secondary suite to sound.

Residential care facilities. The regulation of residential care facilities became a priority due to demographic changes and the diverging efforts of provinces and territories. To encourage harmonization, changes were made to the National Codes, and a new Group B, Division 3 (B3) classification for care occupancies was added. Construction requirements for the B3 care occupancy now rest between the Group C residential occupancy and the Group B, Division 2, treatment occupancy (formerly care or detention occupancy). The new B3 occupancy must be sprinklered and is permitted to use combustible construction up to three storeys where it may not have been permitted under the B2 classification.

Spatial separation limits. These became a prominent issue as urban housing densities have increased and the number of catastrophic fires in these urban development areas have grown. To mitigate this potential risk, the Codes provide new construction requirements based on the proximity of the property line and adjacent properties, as well as revisions to soffit protection and unprotected openings.

More detailed overviews of the major technical changes are provided as free online presentations at

André Laroche is acting team coordinator fire safety and technical advisor–fire safety at the National Research Council, Construction in Ottawa.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories