August 20, 2012
Nova Scotia seeks input on building code enforcement recommendations
The Nova Scotia department of Labour and Advanced Education is looking for input on recommendations made in a report on the process of letters of undertaking in the province’s construction sector.
A final report, titled Review of Obligations under Letters of Undertaking (Building Code Act, Professional Engineers, Architects Act), was submitted to the building advisory committee last September.
It was based on 57 interviews with various professionals, including architects, engineers, building officials, lawyers, technical safety inspectors and municipal administrators.
The Building Advisory Committee was established by the Building Code Act and reports to the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. The committee is seeking input on the 24 recommendations made in the report, according to a press release Thursday.
More information on comment submission can be found at the Nova Scotia department of Labour and Advanced Education website.
The report notes that letters of undertaking are intended to help municipal building officials confirm that a design conforms to the minimum standards of the Nova Scotia Building Code and that the construction conforms to the design and as certified by the architect and engineers of record.
However, it also notes: “Real control over quality of construction and the way in which important details are executed lies with the owner, developer and the contractor who manage the trades and oversee construction activity.”
Professionals interviewed for the report noted that architects and engineers are often on site once a week or less and that formal complaint processes are often onerous.
"They are not typically hired or paid sufficiently to monitor construction integrity on a continuous basis," the report stated. "The nature and complexity of building methods and the construction industry leaves opportunities for uninformed or unscrupulous participants and is the major cause of the problems that were noted."
In the recommendations, the report stated that “building officials must be willing to notify, or file a complaint to, the professional associations where inappropriate action has been taken, such as approving work which does not meet code, particularly when such breaches are repeated."
It also stated that professional associations, such as Engineers Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Architects Association and Interior Designers of Nova Scotia, should be willing to accept notification of a breach of good practice or code compliance “without the necessity of filing of a formal complaint.”
It also says building envelope inspections, in some cases, should be mandated by a “qualified specialist” and that Engineers Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Architects Association should jointly develop guidelines and standards for building envelope inspectors.
To monitor changes, the report recommends that the Building Advisory Committee be given a monitoring mandate similar to the British Columbia building and safety standards branch of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
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