FGIA: Living in perfect harmony
Harmonizing codes can benefit the whole industry.
March 30, 2023 By Amy Roberts
Construction codes are essential in supporting safe, energy-efficient homes and buildings and safe, effective practices for the estimated 1.4 million Canadians employed in the construction industry. Last November, the government of Canada announced a new governance model for the National Model Code development system as part of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement’s Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table. The current code development standing committees will be retained until the next code development cycle begins in 2025.
Harmonizing codes across federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments can benefit the entire industry by reducing regulatory burdens and associated costs, increasing collaboration through an integrated process, and enhancing clarity across jurisdictions. With this new approach, the code development system strives to be more responsive to provincial and territorial code priorities, resulting in more efficient construction in Canada. The new model is expected to contribute to lower construction costs for industry and reduce internal trade barriers related to manufacturing, operation, inspection, education and training. The economic benefit to Canada attributable to the harmonization and timely adoption of construction codes has been estimated at $750 million to $1 billion by 2028.
The NRC served as the signatory of the Construction Codes Reconciliation Agreement on behalf of the federal government, alongside provinces and territories. The NRC supports the new FPT governance model by co-chairing both the Canadian Table for Harmonized Construction Codes Policy and the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes, as well as through the NRC’s Codes Canada team.
In November 2018, the government of Canada invested $13.5 million annually to ensure that the national codes and construction codes are freely available to the public. Current National Model Codes are accessible online at nrc.canada.ca. In 2020, the government of Canada signed the Construction Codes Reconciliation Agreement to harmonize the National Model Codes with Canada’s provinces and territories. Existing provincial and territorial building, fire, plumbing and energy regulations will continue to remain in effect. Design and construction officials should consult the relevant provincial or territorial government to determine what regulation applies to their project’s location. The new FPT governance model replaces the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, the committee responsible for code development in Canada since 1991. The new model is structured as follows.
The Canadian Table for Harmonized Construction Codes Policy (the Codes Policy Table) is responsible for overall governance. The Codes Policy Table comprises deputy minister-level representatives from the FPT governments.
The Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes, or the Codes Board, is the decision-making body for the codes. The Codes Policy Table oversees the Codes Board and sets the strategic direction for the codes.
The Advisory Council for Harmonized Construction Codes is composed of construction sector organizations, which provide the Codes Board with advice on key policy issues.
The codes community includes code users, interested organizations and the public, which provide input through public reviews and participate in public meetings of the Codes Board.
Technical committees develop proposed changes to the National Model Codes. The technical committees include subcommittees and working groups. When the next code development cycle starts in 2025, the technical committee areas of responsibility may be reassessed under the new codes’ governance model. A callout for members of the new technical committees will be announced as part of planning for the next code development cycle. This will be a great opportunity for more diverse voices to join in the discussion.
Amy Roberts is FGIA director of Canadian and technical glass operations
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