Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes

Canada’s centralized system for model code development and maintenance began in the 1930s, with the first edition of the National Building Code of Canada (NBC) being published in 1941. Subsequent continued development of the National Building, Plumbing, Energy, and Fire Codes as well as partnership with the provinces and territories has resulted in a system that is responsive to new construction products and techniques.

Evolution of the Code development system

Under the British North America Act and its successor, the Constitution Act, responsibility for building regulation in Canada rests with the provinces and territories. This responsibility was generally delegated to municipalities, which resulted in a multiplicity of regulations being developed over time as each municipality tried to meet its own needs. The variations from one municipality to the next made it very challenging for designers, product manufacturers and contractors to conduct business in more than one region. It was also challenging for national programs supporting housing and other construction work to be implemented. As a result, in 1937, the federal Department of Finance asked the NRC to develop a model building regulation that could be adopted by all municipalities in Canada. The result of that initiative was the publication of the first edition of the NBC in 1941.

The post-war construction boom fuelled the demand for a revised NBC, particularly one that did not require houses and small buildings to be designed by architects and engineers. To respond to the needs of an industry that was rapidly expanding, the NRC established the Division of Building Research (DBR), which became the NRC Institute for Research in Construction in 1986 and then the NRC’s Construction Research Centre in 2012. One of the DBR’s original mandates was to provide research support for the NBC.

In 1948, the NRC created the Associate Committee on the National Building Code whose mandate was to update and maintain the NBC on an ongoing basis and provide for broad input. The Associate Committee revised the NBC in 1953, new versions of which were subsequently published about every 5 years.

In 1956, the NRC created the Associate Committee on the National Fire Code, which produced the first edition of the National Fire Code of Canada in 1963.

In October 1991, the 2 Associate Committees were replaced by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes.

Free access to Code documents

As of April 2019, the National Model Codes are available free of charge in electronic format. These and other code documents can be downloaded from the NRC Publications Archive. Hard copies of code documents remain available for purchase through the NRC Virtual Store.