It’s a 3 CODE (dog) night ! “Why would anyone enforce low standards?”


“Why would anyone enforce low standards?” Aren’t building codes in Canada considered minimum “acceptable” standards implying they are  adequate.  To go beyond the code would be unnecessarily expensive and wasteful.

That’s the question quoting one of the closing lines of an earlier blog on building codes. This makes it my third one today (blog on codes).


 That question is good, and a great example of the problem, because  that implication is exactly what the public is left with and it is a complete 180 from where it should be.

The building code is a minimum standard. That code was a standard originally acceptable to banks and mortgage lenders so their book value would be preserved.

It is possible to have a building ‘to code’ and not be able to live in it or afford to live in it.

A tent can be ‘up to code’, and while that’s extreme it is a good example. (You can survive in an igloo, but die in a tent pitched right beside it.)

Insulation is not standard ‘by code’, it is ‘an up grade’. you can live there if the heating system is big enough or runs all the time. That’s where being able to afford it comes in. The lenders didn’t (or don’t) care about that until the living expenses impact their client ability to pay the mortgage.

Sounds harsh, and it is changing, but it is there, in black and white, in the underlying tone of the contractual boiler plate. The original writers of the codes worked for the banks and made lists of rules, with little input from construction professionals. They didn’t really understand all the technologies and how they fit together.

It is an extremely bureaucratic document that is patched and modified to obsequious levels. It is in conflict with itself. Head to head, there are parts that completely reverse other parts. It has not been fully rewritten, the original text remains for the most part and addendum’s that change things don’t rewrite the original, but reference it from hundreds of pages away.

Add to that each jurisdiction chooses which parts to emphasize and enforce, sometimes writing bylaws that modify them locally.

But lets get back to basics. The building code is minimum standard but it is nowhere close to public expectations.

In a vertical scale:

  • if bare ground, undeveloped property represented the base, the ground you were standing on.
  • the building code would be at knee level.
  • fire and safety codes, including electrical parts of the building code, would be at waist level.
  • consumer expectations would range from chin to nose level.
  • Big spenders (i.e. clients with higher expectations) would be scalping you.

You may take issue with the exact scale position but the relative positions are good.

if you understand that you can see why inspectors don’t promote code inspections.

Saying there is a minimum standard code does imply that the standard is high and if it is met then nothing more is required. The building code that we have is a base line, a bottom reference. It is not a high standard or even a good standard.

I repeat:

The building code is a base line bottom reference. It is not a good or high standard. It is failing consumers expectations to the point that it is abandoned by quality builders and proactive professionals.

Just google ‘Mike Holmes’ if you want to know more.

Going beyond the code is not unnecessarily expensive and wasteful. It is actually necessary to build a livable quality home.



Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post