New code will make buildings safer, more accessible and resilient to climate change
The Province adopted the British Columbia Building and Fire Codes (BC Codes 2024) to provide people with a greater level of building safety and to make new buildings more sustainable, resilient and accessible.
“As we take historic steps to build more homes for people faster, we are also taking action to make sure homes are safe, accessible and more resilient to climate change,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We have to find ways to innovate and build differently. Over the next year, the Province will lead a discussion on enabling single-egress stairs in the BC Building Code.”
Key updates to the building code will require all new buildings to:
provide one living space that is designed not to exceed 26 C;
have power-operated doors in all building entrances and universal washrooms; and
have an elevator in all large two- and three-storey apartment buildings.
Additional updates to the building code focus on accessibility, mass-timber construction and radon safety.
“We have seen evidence of extreme weather impacting our province and warmer temperatures because of climate change,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “We need to find ways to protect people in B.C., especially those most at risk from being impacted by extreme heat, to have the supports they need to be safe. These adjustments to the BC Building Code are one measure that will help to ensure people in shared spaces have somewhere they can go to on hot days to stay cool and be better protected from hot weather. We know that heat can sneak up on us, so we want people to be as prepared as they can to find cool places when temperatures rise.”
Most updates to the building code will come into effect provincewide on March 8, 2024. The implementation window will allow construction and housing-industry professionals more time to review the changes and complete any necessary training. It will also allow an easier transition for housing projects underway.
The updates align with the new Residential Development Act, which includes small-scale, multi-unit housing (SSMUH) legislation that will allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and as many as six units near bus stops with frequent transit service.
The Province is deferring the effective date on the adaptable dwellings and earthquake-design changes to March 10, 2025, to provide a one-year transition period. This will allow the Ministry of Housing to work with interested parties and local governments to develop strategies to implement the new requirements.
“Eliminating barriers to accessibility is a core motive in our efforts to making our province a safe and barrier-free place to live in,” said Susie Chant, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. “We are taking action on what we’ve heard in our engagements with British Columbians, especially people living with disabilities. That is why we are updating the standards in our building code to support everyone in their day-to-day activities.”
As the Province updates the building code, it continues to work to identify and review opportunities to support cost-effective and efficient construction of more new homes. The Province, along with fire-safety professionals and national partners, is examining opportunities in codes, including requirements for egress stairs. These opportunities may simplify the design of smaller multi-unit residential buildings and create options for quicker and more affordable construction, while maintaining or enhancing safety.
The BC Building Code is a provincial regulation that governs how a building’s construction, alterations and demolitions are required to be carried out. The code establishes minimum requirements for safety, health, accessibility, fire and structural protection of buildings, and energy and water efficiency.