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Heed changes to building code: Hallam

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Changes to the Ontario Building Code, effective Jan. 1, make it mandatory that new buildings be more energy-efficient.

As a “living document,” the Ontario Building Code changes frequently, but area contractors are encouraged to pay special attention to this major amendment, the town’s Chief Building Official Rick Hallam said last week.

“It’s probably the single biggest change or amendment we’ve had in the building code since they came up with the 2006 code,” he noted, referring to the last update.

“This is a major amendment to the code on a number of different levels,” he stressed.

“It’s all to do with energy efficiency in buildings, and the statutory requirements and regulations that compel anyone constructing new buildings to meet the new standard for energy efficiency.”

The code states that if anyone applies for a building permit on or after Jan. 1, 2012, the proposed construction must conform with enhanced energy efficiency requirements of Ontario’s Building Code.

Hallam said the standards extend beyond insulation to include energy efficiency in doors, windows, heating appliances (such as a gas furnace), and heat recovery ventilation (HRV).

“Those things have to meet a certain standard in the province, and it’s up to us as building officials and to the building community, to ensure that when new buildings are being constructed, that they do meet the efficiency guidelines,” he explained.

The information regarding energy efficiency for housing is laid out in a document called Supplementary Standard SB-12.

There also is a set of energy efficiency guidelines called Supplementary Standard SB-10, added Hallam, but it is more relevant to engineers and architects who would be working on larger buildings, like schools and hospitals.

R-value insulation ratings are used to measure the insulations’ ability to resist heat flow. Under the new requirements, the R-value for a ceiling below an attic or roof space will increase from R 41 to R 50 while the R-value for walls above grade will increase from R 26 to R 29.

Likewise, the equivalent rating for windows, called U-values, will go up for windows, sliding glass doors, and skylights while annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings will increase for space heaters and HRVs.

For more information on the changes, contact Hallam at the Civic Centre (274-5323) or via e-mail at rhallam@fort-frances.com

A pamphlet giving a brief overview of the energy efficiency changes is available at the Ontario Building Officials Association’s website at www.oboa.on.ca

This website also is the place to download energy efficiency design summary (Part 9 Residential) forms, which are meant to assist the builder in being able to document and show the building official how they plan to meet the new design standards.

Hallam said that when people come in to apply for a building permit, they will be given one of these design summaries. When they come back with drawings, they must have the design summary filled out.

He noted the design summary provides a “road map” indicating four different options for builders to use to achieve the design standards.

But Hallam feels the most popular one here will see builders study the new standards themselves, follow them to a ‘T’ in their designs, and work with him as they fill out the energy efficiency design summary.

Hallam said it would be beneficial if contractors learn all about the new amendment, adding he also is doing his homework and wants to be as helpful as he can to the public.

“[The OBOA] takes this kind of stuff quite seriously and we are probably, next to provincial government, the leader in getting this information out because it’s up to us as building officials to see that it gets done,” he remarked.

Hallam recommended contractors attend a training course called “Part 12 Resource Conservation All Buildings,” which is being offered Jan. 25-26 in Thunder Bay.

To register, visit www.oboa.on.ca, click on the “Education/Training” link on the left-hand side of the page, and scroll down the list of courses to the “Part 12 Resource Conservation All Buildings” course in Thunder Bay.

Click on the course and a registration form will pop up.

There is a cost to attend.

For those who can’t make it, Hallam noted contractors also can order a free CD-ROM, entitled “Part 12 Energy Efficient Skills Training for Residential Building Trades and Site Superintendents,” at the OBOA’s website.

Occupancy permits

A second change to the Ontario Building Code states that as of Jan. 1, 2012, an inspection must be made—and an occupancy permit issued—prior to people occupying certain new residential buildings.

An occupancy permit is issued after a building inspector makes a final inspection of a building, or in this case, a house, and ensures it meets all the requirements so it’s fit to be lived in.

While occupancy permit requirements are not new for large buildings like schools and hospitals, for example, the new requirements apply to buildings under Part 9 of the building code, which are intended for residential occupancy, and that are:

•three or fewer stories in building height and have a building area not exceeding 600 square metres;

•have no accommodation for tourists;

•do not have a dwelling unit above another dwelling unit; and

•do not have any dwelling units sharing a common means of egress.

Houses covered under these provisions would include detached, semi-detached, and townhouses that meet the criteria outlined above.

“I believe it’s a good thing,” said Hallam. “Really, when you get right down to it, building officials and building inspectors, we don’t work for the construction community, we work for the people who occupy buildings.

“Our job is to make sure that when they occupy that building, that it’s safe and healthy in every respect,” he stressed.

“This is a good thing,” Hallam added. “This compels building officials to ensure that they make an inspection, that they ensure that the door’s got a dead bolt on it and no one can forcibly enter that building [and] the smoke alarms are working properly.

“It compels the building official to make that final inspection.”

Hallam said that making occupancy permits a requirement for residential buildings will not be a big change locally, however, as both he and his predecessor, Dave Zatulsky, for years have been making final inspections of houses and issuing occupancy permits for the sake of due diligence.

He added that for at least 25 years, home builders here have called the building inspector’s office and asked for a final inspection—even though they have not been required by law to do so.

But this hasn’t necessarily been the case elsewhere in the province, hence the need to change the building code.

Hallam said another good reason for making occupancy permits mandatory is they’ve become a requirement for certain financial transactions.

“There’s a lot of banks, lending institutions, or insurance companies that, for whatever reasons they may have, will say to a person who is looking to borrow money to buy a house or build a house, ‘We want an occupancy permit. We want something from the building official to say that you’ve been granted occupancy,’” he noted.

For more information on occupancy permits, visit www.oboa.on.ca

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