Building Codes

Canada's National Code System

On behalf of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) the
National Research Council (NRC) Canadian Codes Center publishes national model codes documents that
set out minimum requirements relating to their scope and objectives. These include the National
Building Code, the National Fire Code, the National Plumbing Code and other documents. The
Canadian Standard Organization (CSA) publishes other model codes that address electrical, gas
and elevator systems.

Requirements on the specification of structural wood products and wood building systems is set
forth in the National Building Code which is concerned with health, safety, accessibility and the
protection of buildings from fire or structural damage. The Code applies mainly to new
construction, but also aspects of demolition, relocation, renovation and change of building use.
The current NBCC was published in 2010, and is usually updated on a five-year cycle. The next
update is expected in 2015.

Objective Based Format

The 2010 edition of the National Building Code of Canada is published in an objective
based format intended to allow more flexibility when evaluating non-traditional solutions. The
Objective- based Code provides additional information that will help
proponents and regulators determine what minimum performance must be achieved to facilitate
evaluation of new alternatives. Although the new Code helps users understand the intent of the
requirements, it is expected that proponents and regulators will still have a challenge in terms of
demonstrating compliance. In any case, objective based codes are expected to foster a spirit of
innovation and create new opportunities for Canadian manufacturers.


Model codes have no force in law until they are adopted by a government authority having
jurisdiction. In Canada that responsibility resides within the provinces, territories and in some
cases, municipalities. Most regions choose to adopt the NBCC, or adapt their own version derived
from the NBCC to suit regional needs. Some links to provinces that have adopted their own
version of the Building Code are provided below:

Parts of the Building Code

In Canada structural wood products are used prescriptively or by design depending on the
Aapplication and occupancy. Design professionals are generally required for structures that exceed
three stories or are greater than 600 square meters, or of occupancies not covered by Part 9 of
the Code.

Buildings Requiring Design Professionals

Buildings that fall outside of prescriptive boundaries or intended for major occupancy or post
disaster situations must be designed in accordance with Part 4 of the Code by design
professionals. These structures are designed using loads and engineering mechanics calculations
specified in Part 4. Structural resistance to Part 4 loads is specified in the material standard for
engineering design, which for wood is CSA Standard O86 "Engineering Design in Wood". For
more information also see the Structural page.

For information on how fire safety is addressed in the NBCC see the fire section

Buildings Requiring Prescriptive Design

Housing and small buildings can be built without a full structural design using prescriptive
requirements found in Part 9 of the Code. Some Part 9 requirements are based on calculations,
others are based on construction practices that have a proven performance history. Generally
prescriptive use is allowed if the following conditions are met:

  • 3 stories or less
  • 600 square meters or less

  • uses repetitive wood members spaced within 600 mm
  • spans are less than 12.2 meter
  • floor live loads don't exceed 2.4 kPa
  • residential, office, mercantile or medium-to low-hazard industrial occupancy

The rationale for not basing all Part 9 requirements on calculations is that there has been long
experience with small wood-frame buildings in Canada, and many of the non-structural elements
actually contribute to the strength of the structure. Quantifying this contribution cannot be done
adequately using typical design assumptions that include two dimensional load paths and
single member engineering mechanics. In these cases the qualification of houses and small buildings is
based on alternative criteria of a prescriptive nature. These prescriptive criteria are based on an
extensive performance history of wood housing and small buildings that meet current day code

Code Referenced Publications

The Canadian Wood Council has developed the Engineering Guide for Wood Frame Construction.
The Guide gives background information on the wood frame requirements of Part 9, provides
guidance in defining situations where engineering design is required to supplement the
prescriptive requirements, outlines design procedures, and provides design aids.

Links to additional referenced publications are provided below: