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Climate and Construction: Ontario ministry fails to answer the big whys concerning the new OBC

John Bleasby
Climate and Construction: Ontario ministry fails to answer the big whys concerning the new OBC

Over the past several weeks, the Daily Commercial News has provided coverage of the new 2020 National Building Code (2020NBC) released last month. More specifically, we’ve covered reaction from building industry experts and observers concerning Ontario’s adoption of the 2020NBC into its own new provincial code.

There appears to a high level of dissatisfaction. Coupled with concerns over the new Ontario Building Code (OBC), there has been anger and frustration expressed regarding the province’s proposal to temporarily discontinue the final phase of the excess soil regulations that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Overall it begs the question: How committed is Ontario to fulfilling its role towards Canada’s stated objectives to reduce carbon emissions, effectively address climate change, and act in an environmentally responsible manner?

It’s only fair to allow the province an opportunity to respond. The Daily Commercial News did just that by contacting the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

First, we requested an interview with Housing Minister Steve Clark or someone in his office able to respond to the concerns being expressed.

This was denied.

“We don’t have anyone available for an interview,” wrote Nazaneen Baqizada, media relations spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “If you have specific questions, we can respond to them by email.”

We did that immediately. Over two weeks have passed and no answers have been forthcoming.

Here are the exact questions posed to the ministry that have been left unanswered.

  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 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?
  2. Is there a third comment or consultation period anticipated?
  3. Who was involved in the process of considering what portions of the 2020NBC model Ontario would adopt? Was there a panel of building industry experts? If so, can you identify individuals or organisations? If not, was the manner of adoption decidedly internally by the ministry?
  4. The province has chosen to adopt only the first tier of the 2020NBC for Part 3 buildings and only the first three tiers for Part 9 Buildings. Why so limited an adoption?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. Ontario is not allowing individual jurisdictions like municipalities to adopt any higher tier levels provided by the 2020NBC model than the province itself is adopting. Why?
  8. There has been concern expressed that adopting ASHRE 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?
  9. The proposed Ontario Building Code does not include mandatory air tightness testing to verify built-as-designed energy performance. Why?
  10. Existing buildings will make up 80 per cent of those still standing by 2050. The proposed Ontario Building Code does not address existing building stock. Why?

Overall criticism from various stakeholders concerning Ontario’s handling of its proposed new building code centres on process transparency. With a provincial election to be held on June 2, only a few weeks away, we may never know the answers to these important questions.

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Climate and Construction column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com

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