City prepares for changes to building code

The B.C. government has served notice it is working towards a uniform building code

The province intends to implement changes to the BC Building Code that will strip away local governments’ right to add its own building requirements.

The B.C. government has served notice it is working towards a uniform building code that will eliminate municipalities’ authority to write its own standards above and beyond the standard building code.

Coun. Claire Moglove said for Campbell River that means the city’s sprinkler bylaw – which requires multi-unit residential and commercial buildings to have indoor sprinkler systems  – will be affected.

“Campbell River has a higher standard sprinkler bylaw than the BC Building Code,” Moglove said. “This will eliminate that.”

Developer Jared Welychko was hit last year with the city’s above and beyond sprinkler requirement.

His building permit for a triplex on Alder Street was denied because his plans didn’t include a fire suppression sprinkler system.

The sprinkler system was not mandated by the BC Building Code but is a Campbell River requirement for residential buildings with more than two units.

The sprinkler system would have cost Welychko between $20,000-$25,000 and he eventually put the property up for sale.

Area D also stands to lose parts of its building code if the changes go ahead.

“We have put in customized standards, in particular, standards for flood setbacks specific to our area and that would be different around the province,” said Brenda Leigh, director for Area D. “We should have the right to customize our building code and I want to keep that right.”

But Coun. Andy Adams said while Moglove and Leigh make valuable points, he’s looking at it through the lens of the province.

“Does it make sense for a developer in the Comox Valley to have different codes to deal with from a developer in Victoria?” Adams questioned. “In that context, it would make sense to have a standard building code but I’d like to see it take the best from the best.”

Leigh said there is already a standard building code, the BC Building Code, but local governments should be able to make changes to suit their needs.

For example, after the 2003 Kelowna wildfires, local governments in the region tweaked their building codes to prohibit use of highly flammable building materials such as cedar roofs.

“I think we need to have provisions that meet those specific circumstances,” Leigh said.

The province has said it will implement the changes to the building code over a two-year period.