Building Code – From International Experiences to Local Perspectives

A Few Words from the Author

‟2019 marks my 30 years experience in the domain of the Building Code, fire protection and safety consultation. For this occasion, I propose to you a few articles by combining my knowledge in these domains in Quebec and my experiences in Canada and worldwide. A career in fire protection and safety implies a knowledge of development, interpretation and application of the Building Codes and/or fire protection and Standards applicable to products, materials and systems associated with the construction and life safety, buildings, properties, occupancy and industrial process. Therefore, I chose Building Codes and Standards as a subject for this article.”

Amal Tamim, M.Sc.FPE
Specialist – Codes and Standards / Fire protection and safety

Variability of the Applicable Regulations

In Quebec, the Quebec Construction Code (QCC) and the Quebec Safety Code (QSC) contain two regulations that are mandatory references for our practice, namely:

• the QCC, Chapter I – Building adopting the NBC 2010 amended, and
• the QSC, Chapter VIII – Building adopting the NFC 2010 amended.

As these codes are applied only to buildings subject to those regulations, Quebec municipalities may or may not have adopted a Building Code based on the amended versions of the National Building Code and/or a version of the National Fire Code for exempted buildings. This diversity is not dissimilar to that in the United States during the period of BOCA, SBCCI and ICBO, where different buildings and fire codes were adopted and amended by states or municipalities. This changed after their merger in the International Code Council (ICC), with the publication of the international Building Code (IBC) since 1997 and the International Fire Code (IFC), being adopted at local level by the states or the municipalities.

These variabilities make our practice here in Quebec quite distinct from the one in Ontario for example, where we find only one Building Code (OBC) and only one fire code (OFC), that are applied by the municipal authorities at the local level and interim amendments dictated at the provincial level.

Experts must also contend with multiple authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). In Quebec, depending on whether the building is subject to the QCC and/or CSQ, and of the use of the building, the AHJ can be the RBQ, the CNESST, the fire department, or the urban planning or building department. This variability is not uncommon even where a single building and fire code are adopted. It is also usual to find different interpretations of a code article by building and fire inspectors, plan reviewers, safety inspectors or national authorities (…).

Constant Updates

Experts must always consider most recent and interim amendments to the adopted building and fire codes. Experts must also be cognisant of the code edition change cycles, publication and the effective dates of the laws adopting and modifying these codes.

Several factors influence the adoption and the amendment of the construction Codes and Standards at the local, provincial and federal level. New risks, recent major fires, innovations, and economic impacts are driving factors considered among other changes. Changes are most frequently driven by proposed amendments brought forward by stakeholders such as professional associations of the construction industry, producers, manufacturers, property owners and developers, users and safety practitioners.

In Quebec, fire protection and safety-related standards are incorporated by reference in the NBC and the NFC. These standards are adopted as is or amended in accordance with the provisions of the code or adopting legislation. Experts must ensure that they apply the standard edition as referenced and amended by the adopted code. More recent editions of the Standard may be considered as best practice and as a basis for an alternate solution or can be applied voluntarily if it provides equal or better performance than that required by the current edition.

And… In Other Countries?

Most of the developed countries have their own national standards and regulations for buildings. And there exists a continuous international effort to reduce the International Trade barriers through Standardization and ISO Standards publication. However, in the fire prevention and safety domain, the adoption of the ISO Standards is always restricted.

Indeed, In Canada CSA, CAN/ULC, CGSB, NFPA, ASHRAE and ASTM Standards are common references. In the United States, ASTM, ASHRAE and NFPA Standards are adopted in the IBC and IFC.  In Europe, the creation of the European Union facilitated the development and the adoption of common European Standard (EN). Although member countries have their own regulations relative to the buildings, they have adopted by reference the European Standards.

The FMI and the NGOs for economic development encourage the adoption of the international Building Codes and Standards such as ISO, EN, ICC and NFPA. Yet, it is common to find references to the British, American, French or German Standards, according to earlier colonizing countries or geopolitical influences on the adopting countries. It is not surprising to see the ICC codes and referenced standards adopted in the Caribbean, in Georgia, Afghanistan, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, and to see the published version of the Gulf Cooperation Council that were an amalgamation of the NFPA 1, NFPA 101 and English BSI Standards being replaced by new versions based on those published by the ICC, and more references to ASTM and ISO.

In the next edition, we will discuss standardization, approval, certification and product certification. To be continued…

By Amal Tamim, M.Sc.FPE – Specialist – Codes and Standards / Fire protection and safety


Do you want to know more?

Amal Tamim presents several training courses in English about Building Codes and Standards. Have a look at our dedicated website :


By |2019-06-14T16:49:33+00:00January 14th, 2019|News|0 Comments