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Canada’s New Building Code Aims for ‘Culture of Thinking About Resiliency’

Canada’s updated national building code this year is set to begin addressing the climate crisis for the first time, with further refinements to follow in revisions scheduled every five years.

“The new code will upgrade building requirements for wind resistance and how buildings bear snow loads. There will be new rules for rainwater collection. Automatic backflow systems will be compulsory to reduce flooding risk,” The Canadian Press reports [1]. “New standards related to climate change are also on the way for windows, exterior insulation, fire tests, air barriers, and asphalt shingles.”

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“Climate change, the fact that we now see a rapid change of that environment, is a new focus for us,” said Frank Lohmann, manager of code development at the National Research Council (NRC). Which is why this year’s revisions are just the start, and “the major action will come in 2025”.

Over the last five years, a team of more than 100 researchers worked with another 100 outside organizations, including universities, provinces, and municipalities, in a $42.5-million project that “considered how changing weather and the new norms it brings will affect stresses on buildings, roads, wastewater, transit, bridges, and other infrastructure,” CP writes.

“We’re going to see change in the way we’re designing new buildings to help prevent the spread of wildfire, prevent the damage from flooding,” said NRC research officer Marianne Armstrong. “We want to create a culture of thinking about resiliency.”

As one part of that effort, “the research council is building a database predicting climate stresses under different scenarios for every region of the country,” with researchers “looking into how those stresses are likely to affect the durability of walls and roofs,” CP writes. “Some are developing new guidelines for how structures can better resist higher flood levels. Others are working on how to ensure buildings stay cool during hotter heat waves.”

“Just now we’re getting the data together for those future climate conditions and coming up with how to design for it,” Armstrong told the news agency. “That information will be finished by 2020 and in time to be considered for the next cycle of changes to the building code.”

CP says the United States, New Zealand, and Australia are all doing similar work on building code revisions, with Armstrong stating Canada “is a few years ahead of the game”. But actual implementation of the new code will depend on the way the knowledge crosses over among jurisdictions:

While the NRC “writes the national building code, it has no force until it is adopted by provinces or territories, which write their own regulations,” the news agency explains. “That means scientific advice may be reflected in a variety of ways—from outright rules to guidelines to incentive programs.”