Project licensing

What licensing requirements and procedures apply to construction projects in your jurisdiction (eg, planning consents)?

Before any project can be undertaken in British Columbia, the project sponsors must obtain a development permit for construction of the particular project that they are seeking to develop in the local jurisdiction. Notice must be given to all stakeholders of the intent to develop the project, and the stakeholders are in turn given the ability to oppose or require amendments to the proposed development. Any decision at this initial stage is subject to appeal to a development appeal board.

Once a development permit is obtained, plans and specifications prepared in accordance with all applicable codes and standards, including local building bylaws, must be submitted to the planning department of the local authority for approval and issuance of a building permit. This process is backed up by a series of ‘letters of assurance’ which require project sponsors to assure the local authority that they have retained a qualified professional to design the project. This is followed by letters of assurance from the prime consultant, usually an architect, confirming that they have been retained as the coordinating registered professional on the project and providing the assurance that all plans and specifications for the project will be prepared in accordance with all applicable codes and standards. These letters of assurance are a prerequisite to the issuance of a building permit.

Once the project is completed, the project sponsors must obtain an occupancy permit. In order to do so, final letters of assurance must be obtained from all applicable consultants assuring the architect, in the case of subconsultants, that the various disciplines on the project (eg, structural, mechanical and electrical) have been completed in accordance with the plans submitted. An overall letter of assurance is then delivered to the local authority confirming that the building has been constructed in accordance with the plans submitted and therefore in accordance with all applicable codes and standards. Once this is done, an occupancy permit is issued.

In Ontario, the Planning Act (RSO, c P13) provides the statutory framework for the regulation of land use development and grants municipalities a broad scope of powers related to the approval of plans and drawings for development within site plan control areas.

The procedure in Ontario follows much the same path as that in British Columbia, with a few variations. The first step is to undergo a preliminary project review with the municipal authority, which is aimed at determining that the proposed project complies with the municipality's zoning bylaws. Next, a zoning certificate must be obtained. This process involves a more detailed review of a proposal intended for a future building permit application, to determine zoning compliance and confirm compliance with other applicable laws.

The next step is to obtain site plan approval from the municipal authority which has jurisdiction over the project site: many authorities do not accept a building permit application until the site plan approval process has been completed. This process can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but always considers the jurisdiction's official plan and zoning bylaws. Although there is no statutory requirement for public consultation in the site plan approval process, some municipalities have requirements in respect of public input and consultation.

Once site plan approval is completed, a building permit application must be submitted. At this stage of the process, technical issues related to the proposal are analysed. In addition to including all design plans and plot information, the application must include a form ensuring energy efficiency that is completed by the architect, mechanical designer and electrical designer. Over the course of construction, building inspectors review projects during key stages of construction to ensure that work complies with the Building Code and approved plans.

Once construction is completed, a fire inspection is required, subsequent to which a building inspector conducts a final inspection and issues an occupancy permit if all applicable requirements under the Building Code have been met.

Professional licensing and qualification

What licensing requirements and procedures apply to construction professionals, including any required qualifications?

The professions of architecture and engineering are regulated separately by each province and territory through regulatory bodies established by statute:

  • in British Columbia – the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and the Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia; and
  • in Ontario – the Ontario Association of Architects or Professional Engineers Ontario.

An architect or engineer cannot practise without a licence from the applicable provincial or territorial body. Penalties include fines, imprisonment, injunctions and prohibitions against collecting fees for unlicensed services.

The licensing of contractors is also regulated provincially. With some notable exceptions, most provinces do not generally require contractors to be licensed. Quebec has an elaborate scheme requiring all contractors to be licensed, while British Columbia requires that residential builders be licensed. In Ontario, residential builders must register with Tarion Warranty Company (the province's new home warranty provider).

Do any special rules and restrictions apply to foreign construction professionals?

Foreign construction professionals are not allowed to practise architecture or engineering in British Columbia or Ontario unless they are registered with the applicable professional body. In both provinces, a foreign engineer can apply for a temporary, provisional or limited licence. The renewal procedure and requirements for such licences vary from province to province. In British Columbia, for example, a foreign engineer must apply to renew a temporary licence before the end of each calendar year in order to continue practising engineering in that jurisdiction. Information on the licensing requirements for foreign architects and engineers is made available by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board and Engineers Canada.

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