Industry pushing for harmonization of codes

In recent weeks, we have seen a resurgence in the conversation surrounding the harmonization of codes here in Canada. For those of you that might be unfamiliar with this idea, the basic understanding behind it is that the codes in Canada should be the same across the country—think building and plumbing codes.

Commonly, provinces and municipalities will make changes to the existing code to match the specific needs of their jurisdiction. This causes issues for the industry as products have to meet the minimum standard required in each region. For example, this might mean the minimum flow rate for a faucet could be different from one province to the other.

Contractors that find themselves working along the border between two provinces would then need to ensure that the products that are being installed meet the minimum requirements for each specific jurisdiction. Understandably, this would cause quite a headache for the industry.

A recent example in the win column for harmonization was an amendment by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which would require all new-home appliances meeting Energy Star levels. Between 2021 and 2023, NRCan intends to move forward with Amendment 17 to the Energy Efficiency Regulations. This would increase the minimum energy performance standards of major household appliances like refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers.

Harmonization of codes goes beyond just the Canadian border. It includes harmonizing codes and standards with neighbouring countries when it makes sense and is possible. In addition to the above amendment, NRCan plans on harmonizing certain test standards with the United States.

This will mean that testing standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps must also align with new requirements set to come into force in the U.S. in 2023.

Although this is an initiative that trade associations have been pushing for years, if not probably decades, the various levels of government seem to understand its importance. For instance, back in the 2018 fall economic statement, the federal government announced that they were planning on working with provincial governments to harmonize building codes across Canada. Since then, the government has promised to provide financial support to the harmonization of building codes.

It might take a bit more time, and for trade associations to keep reminding the government why harmonization is important, but I suspect that it won’t be too much more time until we see better legislation regarding the harmonization of codes here in Canada.

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