By: Leah Den Hartogh
After a two-year delay, the 2020 National Model Codes have been released as of March 28. It provides Canada with an updated set of construction codes that include the National Building Code, National Plumbing Code, National Fire Code, and the National Energy Code.
“These new Codes are more reflective of the current world we live in,” said Kevin Griffiths, chair of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC). “Thanks to these updates, it will be easier for Canadians with accessibility considerations to navigate different spaces; large farm buildings are now included in the Codes to reflect the evolving agricultural sector; and energy performance levels have been introduced to make buildings more energy efficient.”
According to Kevin Wong, Canadian codes manager at Uponor and a member of more than a double technical committees, there are plenty of reasons the industry can celebrate after the release of the Codes. “This is the first time all three codes are released at the same time,” explains Wong. “There are no misunderstandings between the three model codes. Cross coordination was a big step and having all three released at the same time was worth the wait.” This is also the first time the model codes are free to access by all users, says Wong. “That by itself is a celebration for us.” National Resource Canada (NRCan) and the standing committees for the plumbing, energy, and building codes all work on cross coordination committees to ensure that the message, objectives, and approaches are aligned, reports Wong.
Across the four publications, there are a surplus of changes made since the 2015 iteration of the Codes. However, there are a few points to highlight—greywater updates now include rainwater, a move to nominal pipe sizing (NPS) instead of measurements in the codes, and the clarification for vertical spaces. But the list could go on and on.
Nearly 400 technical changes, which was approved by CCBFC, were introduced into the 2020 editions of the National Model Codes. Some of the highlights from the CCBFC for the National Building Code include:
- Encapsulated mass timber construction was introduced and will enable construction of wood buildings up to 12 storeys.
- Air leakage requirements were revised to establish performance classes for air barrier assemblies.
- Requirements for evaporative equipment and drain pans are revised to minimize the growth and transmission of Legionella and other bacteria.
- An energy efficiency performance compliance path was established with five tiers.
- Performance requirements for HVAC and service water heating equipment were updated to align with Canada’s energy efficiency regulations.
The National Plumbing Code of Canada will now allow for fibrocement pipe and fittings to be used as a solution to replace asbestos-cement pipe and fittings. PE-RT tubing, PVC pipe, and their fittings are also introduced as acceptable solutions, with the use of cellular core PVC pipe limited to residential buildings containing one or two dwellings and row houses with up to three storeys. Copper pipe prohibition has been extended to all urinals. Non-potable rainwater harvesting systems received new requirements to ensure that they are designed, fabricated, and installed in accordance with good engineering practice, according to CCBFC.
Under the National Energy Code of Canada, whole-building airtightness testing has newly been introduced. Maximum overall thermal transmittance valves for opaque building assemblies and fenestration are reduced to improve the thermal performance of the building envelop.
Each province is set to adopt the same base code, but will have the ability to make jurisdiction-specific adjustments to fit within their legislative framework, explains Wong. “It also gives them the ability to make changes or corrections in the fly if the code got something wrong.” He goes on to describe how the role of the standing committee is never done as the codes are a living document and are always being made better as new technology is introduced into the market.
The code cycle is every five years with a mid-cycle updated to errata and critical updates. That being said, the next iteration of the National Model Codes will be released in 2025 and is expected to address lessons learned from the pandemic, including indoor air pathogens. Provinces and territories were provided with advance copies of the Code changes in December 2021, so that they could prepare regulations based on the updates, reports NRCan.