A new tool has been launched to make it easier and more efficient for building industry professionals in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) space to access the Ontario Building Code (OBC).
Mybuildingcode.com provides a digital version of the OBC via a web and mobile application, making the regulations more accessible than the big binders full of thousands of pages that are often used on a daily basis by building officials and the AEC industry.
“Building officials use it on a daily basis. Engineers and architects use it as well. It’s very cumbersome to manoeuvre around, difficult to navigate and you’re constantly flipping back and forth, so it’s time consuming and not very easy to transport around,” Matt Farrell, one of the product managers and a municipal chief building official, told the Daily Commercial News. “Everything is going digital these days and you have the ability to use it on different platforms, whether it’s your computer, a tablet or your phone. The question was how do we translate what’s in that large document into something that is able to fit in the palm of your hand.”
The new product was developed by the AECO Innovation Lab, out of the AECO startup studio. AECO Innovation Lab provides research and business development services for AEC companies and government.
“40 pound” version no longer needed at sites
The new website and app were both officially launched at the Ontario Building Officials Association’s Virtual AMTS 2020 conference. The beta version of the app is available for free for a limited time.
“The program is built for users,” he said. “We used a lot of user experiences and developed it to mimic the way somebody would utilize the building code in terms of doing design or conception of a building in the design and engineering industry, or the way we verify construction is going to be in compliance through the regulatory field. We used the expertise of a lot of people on both sides of the industry to build the functionality of it.”
There are many benefits, said Farrell, including the ability to make informed decisions.
“Taking that 40 pound version of the building code onto a jobsite is not practical,” he said. “This will enable you to take the building code with you and have ability to answer questions or make decisions on compliance very quickly in the field. The construction industry is going to benefit because there won’t be holdups while the building official inspector goes to check on things.”
Search function helps with definitions, clarification
Mybuildingcode.com includes features such as a search function, linking of referenced regulations and exceptions and pop-up definitions for clarification.
“This is the beta version that we launched, and we are trying to enhance it more so in the future people can edit and they can personalize it,” said product manager Kamellia Shahi. “What we’re trying to do is to make the regulations more accessible for everybody so they can know what is inside the building code.”
Eventually, the team hopes to expand the features so users can add their own bookmarks and comments.
“If you see the Ontario Building Code that belongs to any building official or any person, they do have a lot of bookmarks and they write their own comments,” Shahi said. “What happens is after there is a new update, the new pages come and you have to take away the old pages and put the new ones. You lose all your bookmarks, you lose all your comments.
“We’re thinking of having the digital Ontario Building Code free as a base and then provide subscriptions for the advanced features,” she added.
User input will shape app’s evolution
Farrell said the app will change over time.
“That’s what our plan has been all along, we want user input as to how it should evolve,” he said.
“Currently it’s designed for more advanced users of the Building Code, people that are familiar with it, but our end goal is that people that aren’t as familiar with it, people who are looking up something for their own purpose, will be able to use it as a tool as well.”
The building code constantly evolves as well, he noted.
“We are in discussions about harmonization of building codes to the national level, so we realize that in the next five years even the content of what we’re designing is going to change,” said Farrell. “We’re really scratching the surface on bringing construction regulations to a digital format.”
Visit mybuildingcode.com to download the app.
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.