Building Officials as Environmental Champions

Building officials

After almost a decade of working with the “objective based” building code (introduced nationally in 2006), we have had many opportunities to explore the alternative compliance pathways offered by the code. A big part of doing this work is becoming familiar with the over-arching objectives that frame the entire code. There are only seven objectives behind the code:

  • Safety (OS)
  • Health (OH)
  • Accessibility (OA)
  • Protection (OP)
  • Resource Conservation (OR)
  • Environmental Integrity (OE)
  • Conservation of Buildings (OC)

Given that OA-Accessibility has nothing to do with material choices, a full 50% of the code objectives look like they were written by a natural building enthusiast! Under OH-Health, buildings should not harm their occupants in any way, including by chemical content, mold, moisture issues and thermal discomfort. Under OR-Resource Conservation, no building should deplete natural resources or the infrastructure that supports them. Under OE-Environmental Integrity, no building should expose the natural environment to degradation. I couldn’t have said this better myself!

Last month, I had a chance to speak with a local chapter of the Ontario Building Official’s Association. I took the opportunity to thank them for their work in protecting public health and safety, and to call them to action in fulfilling the environmental and health aspects of the code that currently exist in writing but not in enforcement. Here is the slide show I presented:

 

I would love to see the objectives of Health, Resource Conservation and Environmental Integrity recognized as the key risks facing building occupants, and have these objectives of the code taken every bit as seriously as the “traditional” objectives. The framework exists for building departments to lead on these important fronts, and I would love to see the professional take up the mantle of environmental heroes with the same rigour they brought to fire and structural safety over the decades!

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