P.E.I. to roll out National Building Code Island-wide in 2020

As contractors and construction workers head to job sites across the province in 2020, they’ll be following a new set of rules.

Province says it plans to have code in place before start of 2020 construction season

During a news conference on Wednesday, Dr. Heather Morrison confirmed 'new construction that follows the project guidelines can move forward' during the first phase of P.E.I.'s plan to ease back COVID-19 restrictions. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

P.E.I. is on track to join Canada's other provinces in adopting the National Building Code in the new year, which has Island contractors and government busy preparing for the transition.

In 2020, P.E.I. will officially be rolling out the 2015 National Building Code, becoming the last province in the country to adopt the code. 

The province says it's currently preparing the final draft of regulations and plans to have the code in place before the start of the 2020 construction season.

"The industry itself is very excited about it because it brings a standard of building procedures to all of Prince Edward Island," said Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I. 

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island, says there is no question COVID-19 has had a major impact on construction firms. But he’s confident P.E.I.’s construction industry will be able to rebound. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Sanderson said apart from a few municipalities — including Charlottetown, Stratford and Summerside, which have already adopted the code — there isn't a building code in place.

He said that makes it difficult to ensure consistency when it comes to construction quality, and makes it challenging for those municipalities to enforce regulations that don't apply province-wide. 

"Contractors themselves are certainly having some issues knowing what to follow and what not to follow depending on the area you're building in."

'Benefits industry as a whole'

Sanderson said the move toward adopting the code will make the industry easier to manage and improve training for skilled workers.

"It certainly benefits the industry as a whole because reputable contractors are building to the same standards, whether it be in Souris or Tignish or North Lake," he said. 

"What it's doing — from a safety perspective — it's offering protection for both, you know the homeowner, the financial institutions and the contractors. You're comparing apples to apples, you're comparing contractor to contractor, making sure you're getting the same quality of a finished product."

Rhyan Ramsay, owner of ALR Builds, says a province-wide set of standards and regulations will bring peace of mind to those in the construction industry and homeowners. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Rhyan Ramsay, owner and operator of ALR Builds, is currently working on a multi-unit housing project in Cornwall. He said the biggest issue his company has faced without an Island-wide building code is a lack of consistency when it comes to the quality, cost and safety of a project. 

"It's a good relief, because it was a long time coming from my opinion anyway," Ramsay said. 

"It's going to hopefully get some consistency among the trade, which is the biggest thing." 

He said adopting the code will also help bring peace of mind to homeowners.

"By having these inspections it's taking the onus off, there's not going to be any second guessing from the homeowners making sure that the work is being done correctly."

Training to be biggest challenge

But Ramsey said the transition will also come with some challenges, specifically when it comes to training and making sure everyone within the industry applies the code properly.

Joshua Collins, P.E.I.'s chief building standards officer, said the province has partnered with the construction association and Holland College to offer training courses for contractors, focusing on how the code applies to housing and small buildings. 

Sanderson said the course has been running for the last year and a half and several contractors have already completed it. He said the association plans to continue running the program and will work harder to promote it in more rural parts of the Island.

Province will hire inspection staff as needed 

As the code rolls out across the Island, municipalities will be tasked with figuring out how to manage and enforce the new regulations, including issuing permits and ensuring construction projects comply with the code.

Collins said each municipality will have the option to either enforce and administer the code on its own or sign that responsibility over to the province.

The province says it's preparing the final draft of the regulations and plans to have it in place Island-wide before the start of the 2020 construction season. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"Most indications are that these jurisdictions are going to be signing back the authority to the province to administer the actual regulations and the National Building Code of Canada," he said. 

"We've got a number of staff already and we'll adjust that accordingly based upon the volume of permits."   

Collins also said once the code is in place, single- and two-family dwellings like duplexes will be exempt from the regulations for the first year, which will give the province more time to focus on educating contractors and the public about the new rules.

But, Collins said there is still work to be done and the province hasn't chosen a specific date for the code to come into play.

"We'll set a date in the new year and hopefully have everything turned on here prior to the 2020 construction season."

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