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Bleasby column prompts immediate answer on Ontario’s adoption of 2020NBC

Bleasby column prompts immediate answer on Ontario’s adoption of 2020NBC

TORONTO – In a recent Climate and Construction article dated April 21 and entitled “Ontario ministry fails to answer the big whys concerning the new OBC,” columnist John Bleasby highlighted his ongoing coverage pertaining to the new 2020 National Building Code (2020NBC) released last month.

In it he mentions reaction from building industry experts and observers concerning Ontario’s adoption of the 2020NBC into its own new provincial code.

As part of his due diligence, he reached out to the province, specifically the Ministry of Municipal Affairs  and Housing, to get some needed answers to questions about the code.

Over two weeks had passed and no answers had been forthcoming until the day the Daily Commercial News published the column.

Below are the province’s responses to the questions posed exactly as they were presented in an email to Bleasby.

As part of our continued coverage, we will also be consulting with industry stakeholders for feedback, which will be featured in a future column.

  1. The 2020 National Building Code was advanced in digital form to the provinces in December 2021. Ontario’s second comment/consultation period began on Jan. 27 and expired on March 13. However, the code only became available online to others on March 28, two weeks after expiry. How did the province expect stakeholders, the building industry and building experts to respond given the conflicting time frame? Is there a third comment or consultation period anticipated?

Ontario entered its second phase of consultation on proposed changes related to the 2020 National Construction Codes when it launched the proposals on the Environmental Registry of Ontario on January 27, 2022, and is proceeding into the end of the year to provide enough time for public consultation while meeting timing obligations under the Reconciliation Agreement.

During these consultations, Ontario has provided full information regarding requirements and details about the changes being made in the 2020 National Codes. Versions of the 2020 National Code proposals that Ontario consulted on were approved by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) (except for a few that were appealed) and the final 2020 National Construction Codes published on March 28, 2022, did not vary from these versions.

This is the same approach that has been used previously; in the past, Ontario has consulted on National proposals when it was reasonably certain that they would not change significantly before they were published in the National Codes.

Ontario communicated the National Research Council’s public consultation on the same 2020 National proposals that we have been consulting on – in 2020 – and encouraged Ontario code users to review the proposals and provide comments to Codes Canada.

The 45-day period for the Environmental Registry posting does not indicate the end of the consultation period. Ongoing engagement throughout the year is intended, in order to address the breadth of the changes being proposed.

The government has regularly and consistently communicated to the public and to stakeholders that discussions on the proposed changes for the next edition of the Building Code will continue throughout 2022.

While the posting closed on March 13, 2022, the province will engage with all sector stakeholders throughout the remainder of the year to ensure the proposed changes are fully understood, discuss any concerns and obtain further input.

In addition, Ontario is planning a third phase of consultation later in 2022 to address any outstanding Ontario-specific changes and other issues raised through the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 consultations.

  1. Who was involved in the process of considering what portions of the 2020 NBC model Ontario would adopt? Was there a panel of building industry experts? If so, can you identify individuals or organizations? If not, was the manner of adoption decidedly internally by the Ministry?

Proposals were posted on the Environmental Registry and Regulatory Registry for the second phase of public consultation for a period of 45 days. The posting represented the early stages of stakeholder engagement and Ontario continues to hold sessions on issues raised and other areas of discussion.

Ontario has conducted several internal and external stakeholder engagement sessions and will facilitate follow-up discussions with interested parties on any of the proposed changes for the next edition of Ontario’s Building Code. These sessions and discussions will extend beyond the 45-day posting period.

A Reconciliation Agreement was signed by Ontario through the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Solicitor General on August 27, 2020.

Under the agreement, Ontario, all other provinces and territories, and the federal government are obligated to reduce the number of technical differences (variations) between its Code and the National Codes and release new (and increasingly harmonized) editions of its Code within specific timeframes following the release of new National Codes. 

Therefore, all parts of Ontario’s Building Code that are different from the National Code will eventually require a period of review and consideration for harmonization. In this current cycle, Ontario has only consulted on specific portions of Ontario differences from the National Code.

  1. The province has chosen to adopt only the first tier of the 2020 NBC for Part 3 buildings and only the first three tiers for Part 9 Buildings. Why so limited an adoption? Given such a limited adoption of the NBC tiers, how does the province intend to pull its weight in terms of Canada’s 2030 GHG reduction commitments when there is only one code cycle remaining (2025) before 2030? How does the province expect the construction industry, including the building material manufacturers, to respond to such a limited tier adoption, given the loss of a clear pathway to net-zero that is provided by all tiers of the 2020NBC?

In general terms, the 2020 National Construction Codes introduce tiers for energy codes, one set for NBC (National Building Code) 2020 which contains five tiers for houses (“9.36”) and the other for NECB (National Energy Building Code) 2020 which contains four tiers for large buildings.

Because Ontario’s current OBC energy efficiency requirements for houses, fall between the 2nd and 3rd tiers, Ontario is proposing adoption of the 3rd tier for houses. For large buildings, because the 1st tier was intended to achieve approximately 15% of an improvement, Ontario is proposing adoption of Tier 1. These proposals, if accepted, would represent a meaningful improvement over Ontario’s current requirements, moving Ontario’s new construction towards to net zero.

Over time and future successive Code cycles, the plan is to adopt ever-higher tiers. There is a clear pathway in the NBC and the NECB and, depending on how Ontario’s manufacturing, building and enforcement sectors respond and adapt, government will make decisions on tiers and timing and follow that pathway. The commitment to harmonize with the National Construction Codes means that as long as the National Codes proceed towards “net-zero ready,” so too will the provincial codes over the next two code cycles: 2025 and 2030.

Compared with other provinces, Ontario has been a national leader on energy efficiency code requirements and will continue to be in that position if the proposed tiers are adopted. One of the reasons for Ontario’s success is because it has taken a gradual approach. To make all new buildings net-zero while avoiding any unintended consequences requires significant learning and capacity building in the sector, which takes time. Ontario’s builders have a good track record when it comes to building better than Code especially once they develop the knowledge, skills and confidence that their projects will have a marketing edge over other buildings.

  1. Ontario is not allowing individual jurisdictions like municipalities to adopt any higher tier levels provided by the 2020 NBC model than the province itself is adopting. Why?

The National Research Council, where the new energy provisions were conceived, intended that each province choose a tier; one for houses and one for large buildings, depending on how stringent that province’s current requirements are so that each province could gradually increase the level of energy efficiency their buildings would be required to achieve. The net-zero options in the NBC and the NECB are there so that provinces can show incremental progress while aspiring to these longer-term goals.

If the other provinces choose to adopt, they are also likely to choose only one tier, one each for houses and large buildings. In Ontario, one Building Code is intended to provide uniform requirements and is enforced province wide. 

A foundational principle of Ontario’s Building Code, since 1975 when it was first released, is to have one Building Code that is enforced throughout the province. Before that, neighbouring municipalities having different requirements created many issues. Having one building code with requirements that everyone has to comply with, has helped to level the playing field for builders and consumers; the standardized approach also helps the fire safety, manufacturing, design and the enforcement sectors.

  1. There has been concern expressed that adopting ASHRAE 62.1 for interior ventilation will be counter-productive to the performance and interior comfort offered by high performance homes and buildings built to standards such as Passive House. Why was ASHRAE 62.1 chosen versus ASHRAE 62.2?

The ASHRAE 62.1 Standard is a well recognized ventilation standard and referenced in both the Ontario and National Building Codes. It is applicable to Part 3 and Part 9 non-residential buildings. This standard is not applicable and not referenced by the Code for houses.

For houses under the scope of Part 9, there are a few options. Houses can be designed to prescriptive requirements outlined in Section 9.32 of the Building Code or to good engineering practices appropriate to circumstances by referring the designers to Part 6 of the Building Code. Part 6 includes references to good engineering practices such as HRAI Digest and CAN/CSA-F326-M standard. As these are examples of good engineering practices, a designer can also discuss the use of ASHRAE 62.2 with the building official as another good engineering practice if it is appropriate to the circumstances at hand.

In addition, Sentence, which also applies to houses (very large houses) and dwelling units (apartment buildings) within the scope of Part 3, indicates that self-contained mechanical ventilation systems serving a house, or an individual dwelling unit are permitted to be designed to Subsection 9.32.3. Therefore, dwelling units in apartment buildings served by self-contained systems are permitted to be designed to the options available (above bullet) for houses in Section 9.32.3., Part 9. 

The Building Code is an objective-based Code and provides various options.   Designers who would like to use the ASHRAE 62.2 standard are encouraged to discuss it with their local municipality on its suitability for proposed projects.

  1. The proposed Ontario Building Code does not include mandatory air tightness testing to verify built-as-designed energy performance. Why?

Under the Reconciliation Agreement on Construction Codes, Ontario is committed to increasing harmonization of Ontario’s Building Code with the National Construction Codes.

National proposed mandatory airtightness requirements for the 2020 codes and consulted on these provisions. However, due to adverse stakeholder feedback related to enforcement and capacity, the mandatory airtightness requirements did not move forward. What is included in the 2020 National Code is a provision for standard rules where airtightness tests may be voluntarily implemented. National will continue to discuss this matter as a requirement during the next code cycle (2020 – 2025).

  1. Existing buildings will make up 80% of those still standing by 2050. The proposed Ontario Building Code does not address existing building stock. Why?  

The development of a “renovation code” is underway at the National level for the next code cycle and is a priority project. Ontario itself has undertaken considerable code development work on renovations and we know that is very difficult to develop Code requirements that will work for every renovation project. Ontario is at the National table helping to develop these requirements.

When the National proposals are ready, Ontario, with its stakeholders, will consider them.

Part 11 of Ontario’s Building Code addresses renovations. For example, a new building system or an addition to an existing building are required to meet the current Building Code requirements. Alterations to an existing building system, depending on the extent of alteration, are only required to maintain the same performance level.


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