New Building Act Regulations

The Building Act General Regulation was amended in February of this year and again in April, and the changes further clarify the impact that the Building Act will have on local government jurisdiction.

As discussed by Michael Hargraves in his September 20, 2016 post, section 2 of the Building Act General Regulation prescribes a number of “unrestricted matters” with respect to which local governments may continue to adopt building standards regulations. As of February 28, 2017, the following matters have been added to that list:

  1. in the case of a building not described in Sentence of Division B of the building code, water supply for firefighting;
  2. in the case of a building in a flood plain designated under section 524 (2) [requirements in relation to flood plain areas] of the Local Government Act, setback from a watercourse, body of water or dike of any landfill or structural support required to elevate a floor system or pad above the flood level specified for the flood plain; and
  3. in the case of a heritage building, any matter as it relates to the heritage value of heritage character of the building.

Of note, the Province’s Building Act Guide states that the first two of these matters are only “temporarily unrestricted” [although the Building Act Regulation does not say as much] while further study is undertaken. For that matter, the Building Act Guide also indicates that “transmission of sound from external sources”, “in-building radio repeaters”, “exterior design and finish of buildings in relation to wildlife hazard within a development permit area”, which are listed in section 2, are also “temporarily unrestricted” matters.

Section 2.1 of the Building Act General Regulation also came into force on February 28. It designates the following three matters as “time-limited unrestricted matters” under section 5(4) of the Building Act, but only in areas where a local government bylaw relating to the matter was enacted on or before December 15, 2017, and only where the bylaw provisions relating to the matter are not amended after that date:

  1. fire sprinklers and fire sprinkler systems;
  2. any matter as it relates to the accessibility of a building to persons with disabilities;
  3. adaptable dwelling units.

Essentially, this provision of the Building Act General Regulation will “grandfather” local government building bylaws relating to these matters as long as they are validly adopted prior December 15, 2017, and are not amended after that date.

Finally, section 2.2 of the Building Act General Regulation came into effect on April 7. This new section of the Regulation designates “the conservation of energy” and “the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions” as unrestricted matters, the intent being to allow local governments to require that new buildings within their area of jurisdiction be constructed to one of the steps in the BC Energy Step Code that establishes energy efficiency targets for new construction, and which came into force in April 2017.  The BC Energy Step Code is set out in section 9.36.6 (with respect Part 9 buildings) and section 10.2.3 of Division B (with respect Part 3 buildings) of the BC Building Code. In the absence of a local government bylaw requiring compliance, the BC Energy Step Code will be, at least for the time being, a voluntary standard for builders. The Province has identified the objective of transitioning from the current Building Code’s energy efficiency requirements to a requirement for “net zero energy ready” buildings by the year 2032, and the BC Energy Step Code establishes a series of energy efficiency targets that incrementally increase from current Building Code standards to a “net zero energy ready” standard. Local governments may choose to require builders to construct buildings in accordance with one or more of the steps within the BC Energy Step Code ahead of the Province’s target date, but may not modify or alter any of the technical aspects of the BC Energy Step Code.