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An Architectural Designer’s Guide to the Ontario Building Code

Apr 14, 2015
The Ontario Building Code is administered by the Building and Development Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. For those who may not know, it’s the primary guideline for architects and contractors regarding building design and construction regulations.



Architectural design training familiarizes you with the Ontario Building Code for many reasons. Let’s take a look at why it’s important to learn the details of this provincial building code and some vital changes that have been made to it in recent years.

History of the Building Code


Before the first Ontario Building Code was enacted, municipalities were responsible for developing their own building codes, resulting in differing standards and miscommunications between designers and builders.

In 1974 the Ontario Building Code came into effect. This code establishes detailed technical and administrative requirements as well as minimum standards for building construction for the entire province.

The main purpose of the code is to foster public safety by applying appropriate building standards whether the project is residential, commercial or government. It covers important areas such as:

·       Public health and safety
·       Fire protection
·       Resource conservation
·       Environmental integrity
·       Accessibility

A Greener Ontario


Of course, new technology and construction methods mean that the Ontario Building Code undergoes changes often. The latest adjustments require builders and designers to focus intensely on building safety and efficiency. Some of these required changes include:

·       Smoke alarms required in every bedroom (interconnected with battery back-ups)
·       Set water efficiency requirements for toilets and shower heads
·       Programmable thermostats in homes, that support energy efficiency by turning down heat when residents are sleeping or when home is unoccupied

Typically when there are changes made to the Code, they are implemented over time to allow everyone in the building industry to adjust. For example, as a result of the Code’s evolution, new houses constructed in 2017 will consume 50% less energy than homes built before 2006, and large buildings will only consume 65% of the energy that they did before 2006. New requirements will also place Ontario among North America’s leaders in water conservation, which is great news for anyone hoping to pursue an eco-focused architectural design career.

Code Changes Create Challenges


Through architectural design courses, students learn every stage of the design, drafting and building process. A lot of the updates made to the Ontario Building Code seem small, but make a big difference in these processes—for example:

·       Laundry sanitary pipes must change from 1 ½ in. to 2 in. diameter
·       New requirement to tape transverse joints for HVAC ducts

Both designers and builders will be affected by these changes. Designers must keep these requirements in mind when planning the infrastructure of a building. Meanwhile, builders will have to change the type of materials they are using in order to be compliant.

What do you know about the Ontario Building Code? What other provinces have adopted similar regulations?

Categories: Interior Design and Architecture
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