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If you’re enrolled in CAD design courses and are pursuing a diploma in architectural design, you’ll be required to learn all about the National Building Code (NBC) of Canada—yes, that. If you haven’t already closed off your screen in search of something more exciting-sounding, keep reading to get a condensed version of everything you need to know about the NBC, which will be a lot less painful than you might imagine!

What is a National Building Code?

You probably hope to use your CAD training to one-day design amazing buildings.  But before you boot up your design software, it’s crucial to understand the standards that all Canadians must follow to ensure your final product is both safe and energy efficient. The National Building Code of Canada is the model building code used all across the country, and it’s issued by the National Research Council of Canada. Because it’s a “model” code, it’s typically adopted and modified by the government of the provinces and territories to suit specific local needs.

A Brief History

Originally, the building regulations in Canada were decided by each municipality, and as one might expect, nothing was really standardized across the country as a whole. Each city implemented its own building standards and this caused a few issues. Because of the varying regulations, designers (like you), product manufacturers, and contractors were usually only able to do their business locally—because they were limited to materials and designs that fell under their own municipality’s set of guidelines. A request for a nationwide building code made by the Federal Department of Finance, to the NRC back in 1937 initiated the first-ever edition of the NBC in 1941.

Building Code by Province

Over the years, revisions have been made to the original 1941 Code to accommodate advances in the industry—just as CAD colleges update their curriculum and technology to reflect innovations in design software and marketplace demand.

Each province in Canada now follows a slightly different version of the model NBC—some provinces and municipalities have chosen to implement the code exactly as is, while others have opted to alter it slightly. For example, British Columbia’s building code is based on the core concepts of the NBC with some additions and modifications. However, as a separate municipality, Vancouver doesn’t have to follow the British Columbia Building Code and has developed its own version, based on the NBC.

Energy and Sustainability

The 21st century has graced the world with so many advances that were not even fathomable back when the first NBC was drafted—like modern technology. However, the time has also introduced climate change and environmental issues that were not a major concern over half a century ago. In an attempt to conserve as much energy as possible, The National Research Council of Canada set out to recommend some revisions to the NBC, which have recently been accepted and acted on. These include:

  1. The protection of the environment has been made an objective, with energy efficiency a sub-objective.
  2. The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings was issued in 2011. This provides a minimum requirement for the design and construction of energy-efficient buildings.
  3. Energy efficiency for housing and small buildings will be addressed by adding provisions to the existing National Building Code.

To ensure that the NBC remains up-to-date with the evolving world of architectural design and construction, a new version is published approximately every five years.

What revisions do you think will be made in the next NBC?