Codes & Standards
Editorial – One rulebook
By Patrick Flannery
Standardized building codes should help B.C.
Good news out of B.C. recently: the provincial government is moving to standardize building requirements across the province in a new Building Act. The act, if passed in the legislature, will establish the provincial government as the sole authority to create building requirements. Presently, local jurisdictions (cities, counties and even smaller entities) have the power to make their own codes and interpret and enforce the provincial codes in ways peculiar to themselves.
The chaos this created over the past few years was predictable, especially with attempts to implement the North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS) in the province. NAFS was, to put it mildly, poorly understood by municipal building officials in B.C. despite the best attempts of organizations like Fenestration BC and Fenestration Canada to educate everyone. However, the leaky condo scandals in Vancouver lit a fire under everyone across the province to establish some kind of regulation of air and water ingress in new building fenestration. This, in an environment where building inspectors had, for the most part, not even been looking at doors and windows except to check for structural integrity. So we had a huge number (some estimates in excess of 80) of jurisdictions, each with authority to set their own building standards and desperate to avoid potentially budget-crippling lawsuits. They were hurrying to do something they had never done before with reference to a standard so complicated that few people actually building windows and doors understand it either. You probably could not have invented a situation more conducive to confusion, frustration, bureaucratic bungling and economic strangulation.
Some jurisdictions insisted on labels, without knowing what the labels should show and leaving it to individual inspectors to guess. Some accepted a letter from the fabricator saying everything they make is NAFS-compliant and left it at that. Some invented their own labels. Some asked for certification of the installed window, not knowing that no standard exists for this under the NAFS (but one was put into the 2012 B.C. building code).
Installations got red-tagged. At least one fabricator took to making template labels and hand-writing in the test data so they would not have to make a different label for each area. Others contemplated the enormous sums they would have to spend on testing to meet each jurisdiction’s requirements and started looking for new markets. No one actually closed that I know of, but the mess has been expensive and not at all good for the B.C. fenestration industry, or the building industry generally. Let’s hope that is all behind us.
I had many interesting discussions about the B.C. NAFS experience at Windoor last November, and some of them were caught on video. You can see them online in our video Windoor recap. As you read through the digital document, you will notice there is a “play” button on some of the photos – just click that and you’ll get a clip of the interview with an option to play the full video. We have B.C. natives like Al Jaugelis and Todd Hassman telling a few, shall we say, “cautionary tales.”
Our spring edition of Fenestration Review once again focuses on technology with a look at 3D printing, an idea that has been around for a few decades, but is showing new potential due to the exponential increases in computer processing power we now have. And we go inside Spectrum Skyworks, a Vancouver company that has done some incredible work on those windows that look straight up. You’ll find the Fenestration Canada 2015 Members Directory inside as well. It is a great resource for looking up your colleagues in the window and door industry across the country, and for finding suppliers who have demonstrated their commitment to Canadian fenestration.