Authority having Jurisdiction: From the B.C. Building Code:

“Authority having jurisdiction” means the governmental body responsible for the enforcement of any part of this Code or the official or agency designated by that body to exercise such a function. Notwithstanding this definition, the Chief Inspector of Mines has the sole responsibility for administration and enforcement in respect to all buildings, structures and site services used at a mine, as defined in the Mines Act.

BC Building Code / National Building Code of Canada / B.C. Plumbing Code / B.C. Fire Code

(From the Preface of the BC Building Code 2018)

The National Building Code of Canada 2015, together with the National Plumbing Code of Canada 2015, the National Fire Code of Canada 2015 and the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2015, is an objective-based National Model Code that can be adopted by provincial and territorial governments. Codes Canada(1) are developed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC).

In Canada, provincial and territorial governments have the authority to enact legislation that regulates building design and construction within their jurisdictions. This legislation may include the adoption of the National Building Code (NBC) without change or with modifications to suit local needs, and the enactment of other laws and regulations regarding building design and construction, including the requirements for professional involvement.

In British Columbia, the NBC, together with the National Plumbing Code of Canada, are adopted, including any variations considered necessary, as Book I (General) and Book II (Plumbing Systems) of the BCBC, pursuant to the Building Act.

The National Fire Code of Canada is adopted, including any variations considered necessary, as the British Columbia Fire Code (BCFC), pursuant to the Fire Services Act.

The National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) is adopted by reference from Book I (General) of the British Columbia Building Code.

The NBC is a model code in the sense that it helps promote consistency among provincial and territorial building codes. Persons involved in the design or construction of a building should consult the provincial or territorial government concerned to find out which building code is applicable.

The BC Building Code is a provincial building regulation. It applies to the construction of new residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, and to alterations and additions to existing buildings. It also applies if the use of the building changes, such as from a house to an office. The BC Building Code sets minimum standards for: » Health; » Safety; » Fire and structural protection; » Accessibility; and » Energy and water efficiency.

From: Understanding B.C.’s Building Regulatory System

The BC Fire Code

The BC Fire Code is a companion document to the BC Building Code. Each deals with the safety of people in buildings in the event of a fire.

The Building Code generally applies at the time of construction or renovation. The Fire Code generally applies to the fire safety measures when a building is occupied. Buildings are expected to comply with both.

National Construction Codes

To make sure building and fire codes are scientifically sound, nationally consistent and affordable to develop, the provinces and territories work with the National Research Council to develop National Construction Codes.

The National Construction Codes cover building, fire, plumbing and energy matters. They are designed with input from representatives from the construction sector and the public, and are published as model codes.

The National Construction Codes are regularly updated to:

» Reflect new and improved technologies;

» Address emerging health and safety issues; and

» Meet the changing needs of the construction sector.

B.C. Modifications of the National Construction Codes

The Province adopts the National Construction Codes but with some changes specific to B.C.

Prescriptive / Objective / Performance-based compliance:

From: The Origin and development of Canada’s objective-based codes concept

prescriptive code requires that each component is built to a certain standard, e.g. Wall R-value at least 20. A performance code requires that the building as a whole performs to a certain standard, e.g. uses less energy than the same building built to prescriptive code.

In an objectivebased code, every acceptable solution is linked to at least one of the code’s objectives and functional statements. Therefore, a proposal to add an acceptable solution that cannot be linked to one of the established objectives would require the creation of a new objective.

performance code requires that the building as a whole performs to a certain standard, e.g. uses less energy than the same building built to prescriptive code. … Or they can prove that the building will perform at least as well as if it followed the prescriptive requirements, satisfying the performance path.

From Building Act Guide Section A1: Understanding B.C.’s Building Regulatory System

The requirements in the BC Building Code are designed to meet objectives. An example of an objective is limiting unacceptable risk of injury from fire.

Objective-based requirements can be either prescriptive or performance based. Prescriptive requirements mean you have to build exactly as the BC Building Code says. Performance-based requirements identify the level of performance you have to achieve when you build, but leave you free to decide how to meet it.

For example, the BC Building Code requires a radon vent pipe in most of the province. The code offers one approach for those who prefer knowing exactly how to install radon vent pipes, and a second approach that simply states the objective to be met when radon vent pipes are installed.

Energy Step Code: The BC Energy Step Code is currently an optional compliance path in the BC Building Code that local governments may use, if they wish, to incentivize or require a level of energy efficiency in new construction that goes above and beyond the requirements of the BC Building Code. Builders may voluntarily use the BC Energy Step Code as a new compliance path for meeting the energy-efficiency requirements of the BC Building Code. Learn more about the BC Energy Step Code and local government implementation efforts.

Building regulatory system: Understanding B.C.’s Building Regulatory System

From: Building Act Guide Series: Section A1 – Understanding BC’s Building Regulatory System, June 2015

Each level of government has a role in regulating building. In Canada, the federal Constitution Act gives the provincial and territorial governments responsibility for regulating building and construction.

In British Columbia, the Building Act gives the Province the authority to set the BC Building Code and other provincial building regulations. Setting regulations at a provincial level helps foster more consistent requirements throughout B.C.

The Province gives local governments the ability to administer and enforce provincial building requirements, including the BC Building Code. Local governments also have powers of their own that govern related matters such as land use, property development or heritage conservation. In a nutshell, the Constitution Act gives the Province responsibility to regulate building and construction, and the Province gives local governments limited authority to administer and enforce the BC Building Code.

Q: What are building requirements?

A: Building requirements are technical requirements for the construction, alteration, repair and demolition of buildings. A building requirement can define the methods, materials, products, assemblies, dimensions or performance to be used when building.

Local government: Local governments make decisions based on a legislative framework, provide services and are accountable to their electors in a diverse range of communities. Local Government Systems. Legislative Framework.

Municipalities and regional districts provide British Columbians with essential local and regional services such as clean water, sewer systems, parks and recreation, and fire protection. These local governments plan and shape their communities and exercise the vision through the adoption of bylaws.

Whether you live in a rural area, a small town, or a big city, locally elected officials represent citizens and taxpayers; they make decisions together to meet your community’s needs now and in the future.

Local authority: Under the Building Act, local authority means any of the following bodies that have authority to enforce the BC Building Code (and other provincial building regulations): a. A municipality; b. A regional district; c. The Nisga’a Lisims Government; d. A treaty First Nation; e. The board of governors of the University of British Columbia; and f. Any other authority prescribed by provincial regulation.

Municipality (cities, towns, villages, districts or district municipalities): Municipalities in B.C. are responsible for providing local services and governance to approximately 89 percent of the province’s population. There are currently 162 municipalities, ranging in population from just over 100 to over 630,000 people, and ranging in size from 63 hectares to over 8,500,000 hectares.​

Local Government Systems – Municipalities

Municipalities can be classified as either a town, village, district or city depending on the size and density of their population.

Regional Districts: Covering almost the entire geographic area of the province, regional districts are federations of municipalities, electoral areas and in some cases, Treaty First Nations.

Regional districts provide a political and administrative framework to:

  • Provide region-wide services such as regional parks, and emergency telephone services such as 911
  • Provide inter-municipal or sub-regional services, such as recreation facilities where residents of a municipality and residents in areas outside the municipality benefit from the service
  • Act as the general local government for the electoral areas and provide local services such as waterworks and fire protection to unincorporated communities within the electoral areas

Local Government Systems – Regional Districts

Acts: Acts are laws made through the parliamentary process of the Legislature. Generally speaking, Acts will describe what actions can occur by authorizing, prohibiting, or controlling those actions.

Regulations: It is usually the case that the actions in an Act are further explained through something called a “regulation”, and there can be many regulations stemming from a single Act.

Official Community Plan: Official community plans describe the long-term vision of communities. They are a statement of objectives and policies that guide decisions on municipal and regional district planning and land use management. These decisions impact communities’ sustainability and resilience.


A bylaw refers to a law of local or limited application, passed under the authority of a higher law specifying what things may be regulated by the bylaw, or it can refer to the internal rules of a company or organization.

Municipal bylaws are public regulatory laws which apply in a certain area. A local council or municipal government gets its power to pass laws through a law of the national or regional government which specifies what things the town or city may regulate through bylaws.  It is therefore a form of delegated legislation.

(Municipalities and regional districts derive their authority from the Provincial Government.)

Within its jurisdiction and specific to those areas mandated by the higher body, a municipal bylaw can be enforced with penalties, challenged in court and must comply with other laws of the land, such as the country’s constitution.

Municipal bylaws are often enforceable through the public justice system, and offenders can be charged with a criminal offence for breach of a bylaw.

Common bylaws include vehicle parking and stopping regulations, animal control, building and construction, licensing, noise, zoning and business regulation, and management of public recreation areas.

Land use bylaws Other than Zoning: Municipalities and regional districts may adopt land use bylaws to address matters such as runoff control, development in a flood plain, parking and loading, regulation of signs, and screening and landscaping.

The authority for these bylaws is provided in the Local Government Act. Contact your local government to find out which bylaws apply in your community.

Other provincial and federal agencies may also have their own regulatory requirements that can impact local government land use.

Zoning Bylaws: regulate how land, buildings and other structures may be used. Zoning bylaws may divide the whole or part of an area into zones, name each zone and establish the boundaries of those zones.

The Zoning Bylaw divides the Municipality or Regional District into zones with specified boundaries that prescribe uses within each zone and requirements of development such as building heights, parcel sizes and parking requirements. Every zone tells you what you can build (i.e. types of residential or commercial) and how many units (i.e. number of dwellings) you can build (density). The zoning also specifies where you can build (required building distances from property lines) and how tall you can build. Zoning also has several other regulations including those for home-based businesses, off-street parking requirements, and fencing heights.

Building Bylaw: The Building Bylaw is the regulating document that is enacted and retained to regulate construction within a local government in the interest of the general public. The activities undertaken by, or on behalf of the local government, under this bylaw, are for the sole purpose of providing a limited and interim spot-checking function for reasons of health, safety and the protection of persons and property.

Building Permit: A Building Permit is generally required to construct, alter or renovate a building.

Permits help ensure that construction and major renovations comply with local bylaws, the building code and health and safety standards.

You need to get the required permits before any stage of a project can start.

Depending on where you live, the process for obtaining a permit can vary. Contact your local government to get answers to important questions including:

  • What permits do I need for the project I am doing?
  • How do I apply for permits?
  • How long will it take to process a permit application?
  • How much will the permit or permits cost?
  • Do I have the right zoning?

Typically, permits required for new construction projects or major renovations fall under broad categories including building, demolition and plumbing.

Homeowners may also need electrical and gas permits. In general, the BC Safety Authority issues electrical and gas permits. Some local governments issue these permits.

Check with your local government’s building department to find out their requirements for all permits and inspections.

Occupancy permit:

An Occupancy Permit is required before any building/structure is used or occupied. It is usually secured after the completion of a structure.

“Occupancy Permit” shall mean an inspection form, corresponding with the occupancy inspection, which shows that the Building Official considered that no further inspections were necessary and that the project authorized by the permit was considered to be complete and ready for use at the time of the occupancy inspection.

Scope of practice:   

FROM: Understanding B.C.’s Building Regulatory System

What Do Building Officials Do?

Local governments hire building officials – sometimes referred to as building inspectors — to administer and enforce provincial building requirements.

Local building officials often review building plans and monitor construction for compliance. They make decisions on what the BC Building Code means and how it should be applied in their communities.

Before the Building Act, there were no minimum qualifications or continuing professional development requirements for building officials. Under the act, building officials have to meet mandatory qualification requirements to practice, and work within the scope of their qualifications. Local governments must only hire building officials who meet the qualifications.

A building official can be qualified to one of three levels. Each level represents greater complexity in building construction and greater expertise on the part of the building official:

» Level 1: One- and two-family dwellings regulated under Part 9 of the BC Building Code.

» Level 2: Other buildings regulated under Part 9 of the BC Building Code, including some small commercial buildings.

» Level 3: Larger or more complex buildings regulated under Part 3 of the BC Building Code such as hospitals, schools and high-rise condo buildings.

3.2 Classes of Building Officials and Scopes of Practice   Mandatory Reading

From BC Government website: What Building and Plumbing Officials Need to Know about the Building Act

Information Package on Classes of Building Officials, Scope of Practice and Amendments (Dec 2019): from BC Government website.

Information Package: Amendments to Building Official Classes (Dec 2019)

The Building Act allows the Minister to establish different classes of building officials with different scopes of practice. Different classes enable different types of expertise to be recognized. Scopes of practice define the limitations, if any, on the matters for which an individual in a specific class may make Code compliance decisions.

The classes and scopes of practice are broadly modelled on the levels in the voluntary certification programs offered by the BOABC and the POABC, with some modifications:

  • The building level 1 class is broader than the BOABC’s certification level 1, while the building level 2 and 3 classes are equivalent to certification levels 2 and 3, as outlined in Table 3.1; and
  • The plumbing level 1 class is broader than the POABC’s certification level 1, while the plumbing level 2 class is equivalent to certification level 2, as outlined in Table 3.2.