May 21, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Proposed legislation introduced today would ensure a more consistent approach to building construction, resulting in safer homes and buildings. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General John W. Foran introduced the New Brunswick Building Codes Act.
The act would set standards for building code administration, application, inspection, interpretation, enforcement, and education. As a result, it would rectify shortcomings in building standards throughout the province.
"In the past, there was no consistent application of the National Building Code or any other standards, and no qualifications were set for building inspectors," Foran said. "Under the new act, all these issues would be resolved: minimum standards would have to be provided in return for the building permit fee, and all building inspectors would be required to be qualified."
A review of the building permit and inspection functions began in 2003, and more than 100 stakeholder groups were consulted. This resulted in the creation of a building safety advisory committee, which subsequently provided recommendation for the development of the legislation.
In addition to the standards set under the act, an appeal board would be established to ensure due process and consistency be applied in code applications. This would provide a level playing field for all sectors involved in the building trade. The initiative would be self-funded through a surcharge on building permits.
"This has been a very successful collaboration among business, labour and all levels of government," the minister said. "It is also an important component of our safe housing commitment under the Charter for Change. It will help us achieve economic growth by having a level playing field for everyone involved in building construction. I am proud of this positive step toward making buildings safer in New Brunswick."
In New Brunswick, building construction is a $1-billion-per-year industry, more than half of which is residential construction.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information follows. MEDIA CONTACT: Daniel Lessard, communications, Department of Public Safety, 506-453-4433.
Backgrounder: New Brunswick Building Codes Act
In 2003, the Department of Public Safety, in consultation with the Department of Environment and the Office of Red Tape Reduction, reviewed the building permit and inspection functions. This involved extensive consultation and collaboration with more than 100 stakeholder groups from industry, professional associations, district planning commissions, municipalities and government departments.
Following that consultation, a building safety advisory committee was established in 2006, with a mandate to provide recommendations for the development of a proposed building code act.
Industry, the advisory committee and the departments of Public Safety, Environment, and Local Government agree that the proposed act will provide the required framework to implement a more consistent approach to building code administration, application, inspection, interpretation, enforcement and education. This would result in safer homes and buildings in New Brunswick.
Following are the key gaps under the current system that will be rectified under the new act.
Inconsistent adoption and application of the National Building Code
The National Building Code contains the technical requirements for building construction. Each municipality adopts different versions of the code by municipal bylaw, or parts of it, at different times. Unincorporated areas are administered by the district planning commissions. The result is little consistency throughout jurisdictions in terms of rules, procedures, applications, code interpretations, and quality of service.
Under the new act, New Brunswick would continue to use and adopt the National Building Code. Provincial adoption would ensure that each jurisdiction uses the same version in its entirety.
Method of code adoption
Currently, updated versions of the National Building Code, published by the National Research Council of Canada, are adopted in New Brunswick by regulation, but this is not done in a timely manner. In 1998, for example, New Brunswick adopted the 1995 code. The new code was published in 2005, but it will not be adopted until 2009. Industry would like a quicker method of code adoption; the suggested method in the act is for ministerial adoption by reference.
Qualification standards for building inspectors
Under the proposed legislation, building inspectors would be required to be qualified as per the criteria prescribed in the regulations, and they would only be able to inspect buildings to a level for which they would be qualified. (For example, residential is Level 1, commercial and apartment buildings are Level 2, and schools, hospitals and malls are Level 3.)
The proposed legislation would establish a minimum standard of service that would have to be provided in return for the building permit fee provincewide. It would lay the foundation for an efficient, co-ordinated process. It would also establish an appeal board to ensure due process and consistency in code interpretations.
The advisory committee recommended that a surcharge be added to the cost of all building permits for each local jurisdiction, based on a flat rate of 65 cents per $1,000 of construction value. For municipalities with a chief building inspector, the amount would be capped at $10,000 per year. This surcharge would be adjusted every three years on a running-average basis.