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BC’s Inconsistent Uniform Building Code

Last year, the BC government introduced measures to create a uniform building code.

It made sense to eliminate the myriad of different municipal requirements and interpretations.

For example, some municipalities require fire sprinklers in new single family homes, though they aren’t required in the code.

The reason sprinklers are not required is they don’t pass the test of cost/benefit, an important test also applied in industries such as automobiles to balance risk and affordability.

The cost of sprinklers in single family homes is not justified compared with smoke alarms.

According to a CMHC study, reduced smoking, modern construction practices, and wired-in smoke alarms already in the building code, have significantly improved fire safety in new homes. Read the study here.

To support a uniform code, the province should remove or grandfather the sprinkler regulations of a small number of existing municipalities bypassing the code and cost/benefit.

Instead, BC plans to allow all municipalities to “opt-in” for mandatory fire sprinklers.

This unwisely creates a provincially-recognized process to bypass the code resulting in marginal benefit, higher home prices and more inconsistency – some municipalities will opt-in, some won’t.

This plan is underway without consulting a number of significant organizations engaged in home construction and sales and impacted by costs.

Also missing are consumers forced to pay for mandatory sprinklers.

In the end, more young people will be prevented from buying a home in a province where housing is already $200,000 over the national average.

Mandatory sprinklers may be just the start of BC’s new costly and inconsistent uniform building code.

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Our column appears every Wednesday in the Times Colonist newspaper.

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