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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

On Thursday I rose to speak at second reading in support of Bill 3 -2015 Building Act. This is a bill that has been in the works for quite some time. As Minister Richard Coleman (Liberal – Fort Langley-Aldergrove) and Mike Farnworth (NDP – Port Coquitlam), two of the longest serving MLAs in the legislature, noted, the contents within the bill have been discussed and debated since the 1990s.

This bill has three main purposes:

  1. To streamline building requirements and ensure that they are the same throughout BC by establishing the province as the sole authority to create building requirements;
  2. To establish mandatory qualifications for local building officials in order to improve the interpretation, application and enforcement of the BC Building Code;
  3. To expand the province’s ability to review innovative building proposals.

Below is the text of my contribution to the debate.


My contribution to the debate at second reading


I must say, I do agree with the member for Nanaimo about the importance of climate and actually having that reflected in building codes. There have been steps made in the province of British Columbia, without any doubt, in that area. I assume and hope that there will be in the future.

The minister points out that the building code has been greening for the past seven years. I agree that there have been advances in that area. My concern, of course, is whether or not this bill will actually limit the innovation that has occurred and will continue to occur at the municipal level.

There’s a lot of good in this bill. I’ve been in contact with municipalities in the area that I serve, and they’re generally supportive of this bill. There’s strength within the streamlining of the building requirements across the province, particularly in a region like the capital regional district, with our multitude of municipalities and subsequent building codes. There does need to be standardization, and that has certainly been conveyed to me.

The intent, of course, is to reduce costs and improve efficiency, productivity and innovation in the construction sector. It’s hard to argue against attempts to reduce bureaucracy, red tape and costs in the construction sector. Of course, builders and construction associations have been lobbying for a streamlined Building Act for many, many years. As a stakeholder in the building business…. Of course, listening to an important stakeholder is of great importance.

Some of the local governments that we’ve looked into, particularly the ones that I represent, have expressed concerns not so much about what they’ve read in the bill, but the devil is within the details, in some sense. They’re not sure to what extent, at this stage, it will actually affect them or affect their ability to take local concerns into their building practices.

There are some concerns about streamlining. But generally, streamlining the building requirements, especially qualifications for building officials, would certainly help reduce confusion and improve the efficiency for builders.

Some of the concerns and questions that have been expressed to me lie in these finer details. In particular, there have been questions with respect to whether or not this bill actually provides a minimum standard or a maximum standard in some cases, whether it will limit innovation or allow for innovation. Again, this is where the devil is in the details. We’ll hear more about that as we go into committee stage.

One specific and very local example that was brought to my attention — and I think this is shared not only in the region of Oak Bay but across British Columbia — was the issue with respect to local requirements for fire regulations, fire sprinkler regulations. There are areas that are not well served by access for fire trucks, access for fire reduction. These areas do have and are required within local areas to have various sprinkler regulations. We only have to look at what happened on Mount Washington just this past week for some of the ramifications of perhaps not having more aggressive fire regulations in a community that is not well served, that does not have good access to fire services.

There’s also some question and concern about the extent to which this bill will retroactively remove some of the unique bylaws within the municipalities. I look forward to exploring that further. Again, it’s important — as the member for Nanaimo, the member for Port Coquitlam and others have expressed — to actually ensure this bill facilitates innovation rather than limits innovation. I’m sure, again, in committee stage we’ll see more of that.

Finally, the big question municipalities are asking is: who’s going to pay the cost? Is the government going to be repaid? Or is this, in some sense, going to be downloading of costs onto municipalities? Or will it be alleviating municipalities?

There is a very real concern out there that while builders will be saving money, the question is: what about local governments? Will they be picking up the bills, or will they actually be reducing their costs as well?

The rationale for this, of course, is that there are far too many pressing issues, as we try to deal with our infrastructure debt in municipalities across British Columbia that has grown over decades of neglect and is now having to be dealt with through year-after-year increases in municipal housing taxes, property taxes. There is simply no more room for growth in these areas to cover downloading of costs onto municipalities.

Once again, overall, I’m very pleased to support this bill at this stage, and I will look forward to seeing more information in the details as we move to committee stage.

4 Comments

  1. March 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Interestingly, just after these posts, the BC government today announced mandatory education and training for builders in BC. This is what we have advocated for many years.

    http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2015/03/enhanced-builder-licensing-helps-protect-homebuyers.html

    That said, our preference is education accreditation and updating should be done by a Professional Builders Institute rather than the government’s HPO. Realtors, engineers, architects manage their mandatory training, not the government. A Professional Builders Institute had been supported by the government until recently.

  2. March 1, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    The Victoria Residential Builders Association supports safe, affordable, energy efficient housing constructed under a uniform provincial code supported by research, diligence and education and training.

    Here are some thoughts regarding the recently introduced Building Act – Bill 3.

    1. Uniform interpretation of the BC Building Code is critically important for consumer protection, housing affordability and professionalism. The BC Building Code should be the responsibility of the province, as is the case in other provinces. Presently, inspectors in 160 BC municipalities interpret the code. In the CRD, houses across the street from each other separated by a municipal boundary may require different construction methods and costs.
    2. The BC Building Code is developed from annual National Building Code consultations involving builders, engineers, architects, energy efficiency specialists, planners, inspectors etc. Their job is to engage research and diligence while reviewing construction practices, materials and safety rooted in their extensive expertise and experience. There are committees dedicated to areas like energy efficiency and seismic. Part of their mandate is to do cost/benefit reviews of proposed changes in the interests of housing affordability.
    3. Municipal innovation without the above diligence and cost/benefit is not in the interests of consumer protection or affordability. Municipalities may require consumers hire architects and engineers to sign off on innovative concepts, however that undermines affordability, particularly in the single detached housing market. Regardless, some municipalities choose this path, which is partly why the average price of a home in BC is $589,000. The second highest price is $435,000 in Ontario – a $154,000 difference. The lowest average price in Canada is New Brunswick at $150,000.
    4. Energy efficiency must be balanced with affordability. Advances in solar panel technology, materials, appliances and energy management software will become more affordable over time.
    5. More energy efficiency regulations for BC were introduced on December 19, 2014. Energy efficiency requirements for windows and doors were also recently introduced. While energy efficiency continues to increase, Bill 3 does not require mandatory education and training for builders of Part 9 homes (eg single detached, duplexes) . This is incompatible with consumer protection. Mandatory education solely for inspectors is insufficient in a province building 27,000 energy efficient homes per year, not including renovations. As energy efficiency increases, margin for error decreases. Construction details and materials become more critical. Education is the foundation of professionalism and consumer protection in our society. This requirement was likely excluded in Bill 3 due to opposition by some MLAs, which does not serve the interests of energy efficiency or consumer protection.

    That said, Bill 3 moves in the right direction and is long overdue for British Columbia. I hope this information is useful during your deliberations.

    • March 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Thank you for this Casey. This is incredibly helpful feedback It’s very much appreciate.

  3. Jim Bennett (ret.)-
    February 28, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    To My MLA…
    Delighted to see you speaking on this Bill… Minister Coleman has been talking about it for some time…but as has been pointed out “the devil appears to be in the details”. Hope you have spoken with Casey Edge at Victoria Residential Builders Association. It’s not that “builders” will pocket savings in my view, but that costs of building could go down and these would be passed on (in most cases) to purchasers of homes and owners of existing homes that are getting renovated.