Vancouver Raises the Game with it's Window Code

“BC Homeowners and Contractors will want to know about some recent changes.” –Says Centra Sales Rep John Pikard

The BC Building code takes the form of two intimidating volumes over in our estimating department.  But here is what you most need to know about windows in your home - and a recent important change the city of Vancouver has made.

The BC building code really tries to consider costs relative to benefits so that the regulations are a “minimum standard”

However, Vancouver has been allowed to adapt the BC Code into its own Vancouver Building Bylaw (2014); many would argue that the Vancouver building code for single family homes is considered the most stringent in North America.

Vancouver's ability to adopt its own Building Bylaw is unique in British Columbia.

Vancouver Treats Itself like Northern BC

Under climate zones outlined by Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Star program for windows, Vancouver falls under the most temperate Zone A.

However, the new City of Vancouver building bylaw requires that windows meet the standards of Zone C, the same level as in northern B.C. towns such as Dawson Creek.

The City’s bylaw consequently requires windows to have a U-value of 1.4. This compares with a U-value of 2.0 under the previous city standards for Part 9 buildings, which covers one- and two-family homes.

Remember when it comes to U values, a lower number means ----A U-Value is a materials resistance to heat loss. The lower the U-Value the more resistant to heat loss.  What you want is a really low number.

Vancouver’s chief building official and director of the licensing and inspections department, has stated that the new bylaw will be in effect for all new residential construction and for “substantial renovation” permits taken out after January 1, 2015

If windows are being replaced, they also have to conform to the new building bylaw, he confirmed.

Does This Affect You? 

If you live outside of Vancouver, then you will, of course want to follow the BC building code and be careful to take note of any additional requirements demanded by your municipality.

According to the Code it is the “responsibility of the owner” to ultimately be responsible for carrying out provisions of the Code. However a City of Vancouver official told me it was the responsibility of the individual taking out the permit and that could be the General Contractor.

With concerns about higher energy costs as well as an increasing focus on green & efficiently designed homes, it’s always a good idea to consider the most energy efficient windows on the market.

What about Heritage Homes?

It is generally recognized that the Code is primarily written for new construction for a performance level that is significantly higher that what exists in older buildings.

Vancouver’s heritage-designated houses are exempt from the standard.

The degree to which any particular standard can be relaxed without affecting the intended level of safety of the Code requires considerable judgement on the part of the authority having jurisdiction.

This perhaps explains why one might receive conflicting interpretations when dealing with building officials and inspectors.

To apply present Code provisions to existing buildings is in many cases impractical and with Heritage buildings may compromise the historic appearance or authenticity. To address this a Table of Compliance Methods for Heritage Buildings has been developed.

If a product (design, component, assembly, or system) meets all the provisions of the acceptable solutions requirements of a referenced standard it is deemed to be Code compliant.

If the product differs from the referenced standards it is treated as an “alternate solution” and it must be demonstrated that it addresses the same issues as the compliant product.

Residential buildings are separated into 2 major categories…Part 3 for Multi-Family buildings and Part 9 for Single Family Homes with different Code requirements for each type.

A Quick Guide to the BC Building Code:

The BC Building Code is an objective-based Provincial regulation that governs how new construction, building alterations, repairs and demolitions are completed. This code establishes minimum standards & requirements for safety, health, accessibility, fire and structural protection of buildings and energy and water efficiency. It applies throughout the province except for some federal lands and the City of Vancouver.

The current BC Building Code came into effect December 20, 2012.

It is based on the current edition of the 2010 National Building Code with some modifications specific to B.C. It is usually updated every 5 years or so. (The previous BCBC was issued in 2006 & 1998) The City of Vancouver is enabled under the Vancouver Charter to adopt bylaws to regulate the design and construction of buildings and has its own “code”. It is commonly referred to… as The 2014 Vancouver Building Bylaw.

The latest version of the Vancouver Building By-Law came into effect on January 1st, 2015.

Vancouver’s heritage-designated houses are exempt from the standard.

The degree to which any particular standard can be relaxed without affecting the intended level of safety of the Code requires considerable judgement on the part of the authority having jurisdiction. This perhaps explains why one might receive conflicting interpretations when dealing with building officials and inspectors.

It is generally recognized that the Code is primarily written for new construction for a performance level that is significantly higher that what exists in older buildings. To apply present Code provisions to existing buildings is in many cases impractical and with Heritage buildings may compromise the historic appearance or authenticity. To address this a Table of Compliance Methods for Heritage Buildings has been developed.

If a product (design, component, assembly, or system) meets all the provisions of the acceptable solutions requirements of a referenced standard it is deemed to be Code compliant. If the product differs from the referenced standards it is treated as an “alternate solution” and it must be demonstrated that it addresses the same issues as the compliant product.

Residential buildings are separated into 2 major categories…Part 3 for Multi-Family buildings and Part 9 for Single Family Homes with different Code requirements for each type.

Single Family Homes are buildings with areas less than 600 m2 and less than 3 storeys in building height

Just a reminder that the requirements can also differ for buildings within the City of Vancouver. We have also recently seen that some municipalities have also introduced some additional requirements that they are enforcing that are not actually in the Code.

I had also mentioned that the Code is a “minimum” standard. As you discuss window configurations and details with your clients you may identify situations where safety upgrades would offer added protection for their home and family. Don’t hesitate to identify these areas of concern. They may even thank you for the suggestion.

As professionals selling products in many different municipalities it is incumbent on you to be “professional” and to know the Code to protect your “customer” from non-compliance.

This is important as your success depends on it as non-compliance can be costly. Be safe …know the Code…if you don’t… ask!   Have questions about the code? Contact John at info@centra.ca            

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