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April 28, 2017

Again, The Building Code

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On St. Patrick's day there was an article in Haligonia announcing the April 1 update of the building code.

The article says, in part:
"The province is also updating its own accessibility regulations to improve barrier-free provisions in washrooms, requirements for power door operators and barrier-free paths of travel. 
“Nova Scotia’s accessibility requirements are stricter than the ones in the National Building Code,” said Mr. Churchill. “I want to thank the disability community for their feedback on the building code changes, which will improve barrier-free design in our province.”
The changes will come into effect on April 1. 
The province consulted on building code changes with representatives of persons with disabilities, the construction industry, building officials, and other industry groups. It was a complementary process to the ongoing Accessibility Act consultations. 

I’d like to know the identities of “representatives of persons with disabilities” consulted by the province “on building code changes”. A search of the Department of Municipal Affairs press releases for all of 2016 and 2017 yields no announcement of consultations. Nor the Disabled Persons Commission. As a frequent complainer about the department’s underreach and lax enforcement, I would have a lot to say.

Now I notice that the latest version of the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations, effective April 1, does not contain all the proposed changes to barrier free requirements listed in the referenced document.  In particular section 3.8.4. Adaptable Housing Requirements is missing entirely. This latter issue is of high interest to those drafting the Accessibility Act, which was passed this week.

I wrote to Joe Rogers, P.Eng. Building Code Coordinator.  He kindly sent me a marked up copy  of the new regulations, so I could identify the changes.  The eighteen changes in Schedules C & D are on these subjects:
  • Scope
  • Controls
  • Plumbing Facilities
  • Design Standards
  • Ramps
  • Doorways and Doors
  • Controls
  • Drinking Fountains
  • Water Closet Stalls
  • Universal Washrooms
  • Water Closets
  • Urinals
  • Lavatories and Mirrors
  • Showers
  • Bathtubs
  • Counters
  • Sleeping Units in Roofed Accommodation
  • Schedule “D” Alternate Compliance Methods for Existing Buildings #15 

I believe these changes are largely technical in nature.  For example, I think there are no new situations when and where a power door must be available, only that it must operate in a certain time interval and with a certain force.  Cars have had seatbelts for years, so to claim that the use of a new fabric is an important safety development is a reach.

These seem like routine updates to me, and to characterize them as "regulations to improve barrier-free provisions" is disingenuous.  Because of numbering changes, it's difficult to itemize the exact changes - used to be urinals, now its drinking fountains.  Be careful........

Taking urinals as an example:

Old VersionNew Version Urinals
(1) If urinals are provided in a barrier-free washroom, at least one urinal shall be
(a) wall mounted, with the rim located between 488 mm and 512 mm above the floor, or
(b) floor mounted, with the rim level with the finished floor.
(See Appendix Note A- NSBCR)
(2) The urinal described in Sentence (1) shall have
(a) a clear width of approach of 800 mm centred on the urinal,
(b) no step in front, and
(c) installed on each side a vertically mounted grab bar that is not less than 300 mm long, with its
centreline 1000 mm above the floor, and located not more than 380 mm from the centreline of
the urinal. Urinals
(1) Urinals described in Sentence shall
(a) be wall-mounted, with the opening of the basin located not more than 430 mm above the floor,
(b) be adjacent to an accessible route,
(c) have a clear width of approach of 800 mm centred on the urinal and unobstructed by privacy screens,
(d) have no step in front of it,
(e) have a flush control that
i) is automatic, or
ii) complies with Clause and is located 900 mm to 1100 mm above the floor, and
(f) have a vertically mounted grab bar installed on each side that
i) complies with Article,
ii) is not less than 600 mm long, with its centre line 1 000 mm above the floor, and
iii) is located not more than 380 mm from the centre line of the urinal. (See Appendix A-, NSBCR)

So urinals are 58 mm lower, have longer grab bars and maybe flush themselves.  A great advance!  People with disabilities are beside themselves with excitement!

The missing section 3.8.4. has to do with adaptable housing and would apply to private dwellings and rentals in respect of:
  • One entrance 900mm wide
  • With a low threshold
  • Interior doors and corridors on the entrance level 900mm wide
  • Lever faucets
  • Reinforced bathroom walls allowing future grab bars
  • One handed controls and switches 400 to 1200 mm high
These ideas are borrowed wholesale from the concept of lifetime homes and are modest concessions to the notion of aging, which comes as a surprise to us all.

Personally, I think this is a no-brainer.  For one's own sake and for resale value.  A young family would easily recoup the expense of these desirable features.  Any semi-conscious builder would see this as a marketing opportunity.   The province has a stake in this too, as people have the option of aging in place rather than in a rest home.

When I pressed Mr. Rogers on why this section was omitted, he said:
With respect to proposed Subsection 3.8.4. here is what transpired.  During the consultation process, the disabled persons’ community, professionals, and organizations brought forward suggestions and concerns with the proposed changes relating to adaptability. For this reason, government opted not to include that piece at this time. This will allow time for further study and consultation to ensure the changes are comprehensive as possible and fully align the Building Code and other legislation. The Building Advisory Committee is committed to bringing changes forward once this research and discussion takes place. 

Make of that what you will.  Find it in the library under the Dewey 823 classification.

As to my original request for the identities of and submissions made by “representatives of persons with disabilities”, Mr. Rogers is thinking:

I will have to look into your request for access to the submissions made by the public with respect to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.  Once the status of those submissions has been determined I will advise.  

I hope those submissions aren't related to National Security.  I'll keep you posted 

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