VICTORIA, B.C. – The British Columbia government is changing the province’s building code with more options for secondary suites in multi-family dwellings, enhancements to safety and energy efficiency standards and new options to build tall wood buildings.
12-storey tall wood buildings are now feasible under the new Building Code, up from the previous limit of six storeys. Thirteen B.C. communities have signed on to use mass timber technology, where the primary load-bearing structure is made of solid or engineered wood. to build tall structures.
“Increasing and finding new uses of British Columbia forestry products means we are creating beautiful energy efficient homes, while supporting jobs and local economies. Changes to the building code to promote efficiency is part of our CleanBC plan to reduce emissions in new construction, while improving energy efficiency in existing buildings,” B.C. minister of environment and climate change strategy George Heyman said.
Local governments can now choose to allow secondary suites in side-by-side multi-family buildings such as duplexes and townhouses. The changes do not apply to apartment-style buildings where units are above or below each other. The provincial code also does not set a minimum size, which means local governments may set their own restrictions for secondary suites.
“Secondary suites are a critically important source of rental housing in communities across B.C. We are pleased to see that the Province is extending the new regulations to existing buildings and is removing barriers to this form of rental housing,” LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak said.
New secondary suite regulations will also require fire separations between residences. Other safety changes include requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings and assembly buildings, increased lighting in recycling rooms, and additional requirements for fire alarms and exits on roof-top enclosures such as patios.
“People deserve to have a safe, affordable and secure home, and we are working to make that a reality for all British Columbians. These changes to the building code will help create more affordable housing, while ensuring buildings in B.C. meet world-class health, safety and energy efficiency standards,” B.C. minister of municipal affairs and housing Selina Robinson said.
The province has also introduced new requirements for public-sector buildings as part of its energy step code, a voluntary standard for energy efficiency that local governments and builders can opt in to. Rather than specifying how to construct a building, the energy step code identifies an efficiency target and allows the builder to decide how to meet it.
There are now energy step code requirements for hospitals, schools, community centres and university classrooms, in part of an effort to make new buildings in B.C. net-zero energy ready by 2032, the province said.
The building code changes apply to building permit applications on or after Dec. 12, 2019.
With files from The Canadian Press