The British Columbia Government has started to bring into force some of the key provisions of its new Building Act.

The Act, which was passed by the legislature in the early half of 2015, is intended to provide greater consistency in the building and construction industry, and to modernize and streamline the building regulatory system.

The first substantive provisions of the Act came into force in December 2015. The latest provisions address municipal building requirements. The Act states that if municipalities have existing building requirements in their bylaws, they will be of no legal force as of December 2017.

Key provisions are these:

  1. Section 5 – this section provides that, as of December 15, 2017, local government building requirements will have no legal effect to the extent that they relate to matters covered by a prior provincial building regulation such as the 2012 BC Building Code (the “Building Code”).
  2. Section 7 – the Province recognizes that there are legitimate reasons why a municipality may want to enforce requirements that are more stringent that those provided in the Building Code, and the goal of greater consistency needs to be balanced against a reasonable ability for local governments to meet unique local needs. In these circumstances, municipalities will be able to apply for a variation from any provincial building requirements if they can demonstrate a compelling reason. The variation would apply within the community or communities making the request and would not be specific to a single building site. The building requirements in an approved request for variation will be enacted through a provincial building regulation. It is worth noting that the Province is establishing several working groups to address the types of building requirements that are found most often in local government bylaws (including fire sprinklers, energy efficiency, and accessibility that go beyond the Building Code) to avoid individual variations regarding these matters.

Three new sections of the Building Act guide are coming in spring 2016 and will provide additional information for local governments in understanding the changes and how they can effectively review and amend their bylaws are these:

  1. section B1 will explain how local governments and other local authorities are affected by the Building Act;
  2. section B1 Appendix will explain what local governments need to know about section 5 and local building requirements; and
  3. section C1 and the accompanying application form will explain how local governments and other local authorities can apply for a variation in their jurisdiction, and the criteria that will be used to review applications.