Climate Change Rewrites to Building Code Will Come at a Cost, Federal Agency Says

Rewriting the “National Building Code” to include climate change stipulations will come at a cost, the National Research Council (NRC) says.

The NRC, Canada’s primary national agency dedicated to science and technology research and development, wrote in an Aug. 11 notice that it will be hiring consultants to investigate additional costs that climate-change rewrites to the building code will levy on contractors, home builders, and potential house buyers.

“The Council wishes to better understand the implications of the recommended Code changes on typical building designs across Canada,” the NRC wrote in the notice to contractors, titled “Impact Assessment Study Of Climate Change Provisions For Structural Design Of Buildings,” and first reported on by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“The particular area of focus relates to the potential change in material quantities and associated costs for the primary and secondary structural systems required using both the current and the proposed Code provisions,” it read.

The NRC outlined some ways that it would try to integrate “climate resilience” into building codes and standards in its “Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative,” (CRBCPI) released in May 2022.

The initiative included a list of potential code rewrites geared toward protecting buildings from extreme weather hazards like floods, wildfires, droughts, and “permafrost melt,” which it said are “Canada’s everyday realities driven by a global increase in temperature.”

“These new realities also put buildings and public infrastructure at risk,” read an NRC news release. “Towers, bridges, roads, water and wastewater systems, energy transmission and transit systems are built using codes and standards based on historic weather and climate data—not today’s.”

The council wrote in its impact assessment notice that it will pay a Guelph, Ontario, contractor over $260,000 to investigate the proposed code changes and give the NRC an estimate in March 2023 of how much they will increase building costs if implemented.

Contracting managers have also asked the NRC for “comparisons of total costs using both the current provisions of the National Building Code and proposed Code provisions considering the impacts of climate change with a final report including the cost impact,” according to Blacklock’s.

Kevin Lee, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, gave his own cost estimate of climate-change alterations to the building code while appearing before the House of Commons natural resources committee in 2018.

“For a typical 2,100-square-foot single detached home, the additional cost to reach the net-zero-ready standard averages just over $30,000 nationally. For a more modest 1,600-square-foot townhome, the cost increases [by] about $17,000, depending on the configuration of the home,” Lee said.

“In all cases, the substantial extra cost would require a higher down payment with remaining costs ending up, of course, in homebuyers’ mortgages.”

Peter Wilson


Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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