Régie du bâtiment du Québec

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Buildings chapter of the Safety Code

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

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Objectives, requirements and bringing into force of the Regulation

  • The BCSC complements the Regulation in the building field, thus enabling the inspectors to have any issue with a recent construction remedied, by requiring that the owner as well as the contractor make the necessary corrections to bring the building into conformity with the Construction Code that was in effect at the time of the construction. The BCSC allows the upgrade of certain safety components henceforth deemed inadequate to ensure minimum safety for the occupants. Furthermore, it integrates the requirements with regard to fire safety through the introduction of the National Fire Code, which aggregates the requirements connected to the use of the building. The BCSC also integrates special requirements related to the maintenance and verification of certain façades (of 5 storeys or more) and of certain multistorey garages (whose driveable portion is not laid on the ground) for the prevention of accidents. The BCSC also requires of the owners of buildings equipped with water cooling towers that they proceed with their maintenance on a regular basis. By making the BCSC the reference standard for the municipalities’ regulatory control, these modifications help eliminate the situation of ambiguity that had long been prevailing regarding the apportionment of this field of jurisdiction between the RBQ and the municipalities.
  • The Building chapter of the Construction Code, implemented in the year 2000, aggregates the requirements regarding the construction and alteration of buildings. The Construction Code is aimed at the designers and contractors.

    The BCSC complements the construction requirements to ensure the safety of the building’s occupants and users for its entire life. The BCSC is aimed at the owners, tenants, occupants and syndicates of the buildings and facilities coming under it.

  • The BCSC is made up of 6 main components:
    • Standards applicable according to the year of construction and which concern safety, health or the protection of the buildings against fire and structural damages.
    • Provisions which are more binding than the initial requirements at the time of the construction, for sleeping rooms and health care occupancies, with special requirements set out for private seniors’ residences.
    • Provisions with regard to fire protection (National Fire Code amended for Quebec)
    • Provisions with regard to the inspection and maintenance of the façades of buildings of 5 or more storeys.
    • Provisions with regard to the inspection and maintenance of multistorey garages.
    • Certain provisions regarding the maintenance of water cooling towers.
  • The BCSC is aimed at the owners, managers, tenants, occupants and syndicates of the buildings and facilities coming under it.
  • The BCSC has been brought into force on March 18, 2013. However, owners had more time to comply with some of the more binding requirements.

  • It is difficult to assess accurately the costs of complying with these requirements given the disparity of the possible situations of the owners. Furthermore, as per their regulations, certain municipalities could already have required an upgrade of fire detection and alarm systems.

    However, the requirements shall involve costs. The owners had 1 to 5 years to comply with these requirements and amortize the costs of the required upgrade.

    The requirements are set out to maintain the offered safety at an acceptable level. Very old fire detection and alarm systems may be defective or deactivated, unknowingly to the occupants or the building managers. The upgrade is aimed also at ensuring the audibility of alarm signals.

Buildings and facilities coming under the chapter

  • The buildings coming under the Building chapter of the Safety Code (BCSC) house solely one of the following main occupancies:
    • Any private seniors’ residence which is subject to the certification of the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
    • Residential occupancy (sleeping rooms): multiple unit buildings or buildings held in co-ownership, of more than 2 storeys and comprising more than 8 units; rooming houses of 10 rooms and more; hotels and motels, etc.
    • Assembly occupancies that accommodate 10 persons or more: childcare centers, restaurants, entertainment buildings, schools, etc.
    • Mercantile occupancies whose total floor area exceeds 300 m2
    • Business services occupancies of 3 storeys and more
    • Underground or aboveground multistorey garages with a concrete slab whose driveable portion is not laid directly on the ground
    • Health care occupancies: hospitals, residential and long-term care center, residential board and care occupancies lodging 10 persons or more, etc.
    • All water cooling towers are subject to the regulation for the maintenance of water cooling towers.
    The following facilities intended for public use also come under the BCSC:
    • Certain grandstands, bleachers, terraces, and certain belvederes.
    • Tents or air-supported structures of more than 100 m2 which are used as residential occupancies or care occupancies.
    • Tents or air-supported structures of more than 150 m2 which are used as assembly or mercantile occupancies and accommodate more than 60 persons.
  • Residential occupancies housing sleeping rooms, namely:
    • multiple-unit buildings
    • rooming houses
    • hotels and motels
    • private seniors’ residences intended for autonomous residents
    • multiple-unit buildings held in co-ownership
    Health care occupancies, namely:
    • hospitals
    • residential and long-term care centers
    • residential board and care occupancies
    • private seniors’ residences intended for semi-autonomous or non-autonomous residents.
  • The buildings exempted from the application of the BCSC come under other regulatory provisions, namely those set out by the municipal regulations. Furthermore, there are less safety issues and risks associated with certain exempted buildings (e.g. single-family dwellings).
  • Buildings of 5 storeys and more: 3650.
    Multistorey garages: 930.
    Buildings equipped with one or several cooling towers: 1500.
  • Nearly 25 000 buildings.

Residential occupancies for the elderly, health care occupancies and sleeping rooms

  • An advisory committee has established within the Safety Code specific standards for this type of building. All private seniors’ residences (subject to the certification/accreditation from the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux) shall come under the RBQ’s regulation.

    The more binding measures concerning these occupancies are aimed at:

    1. the fire detection, sprinkler and alarm systems and smoke alarms;
    2. the presence of exit openings in the basement of a single-family type private seniors’ residence;
    3. the fire resistance of the fire separations.
    • The health and social services agencies
    • The ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux
    • The ministère de la Sécurité publique
    • The fire prevention departments
    • The Régie du bâtiment du Québec.
  • The persons accommodated in residential occupancies for the elderly or health care occupancies belong to a population with sometimes limited physical abilities. It is therefore important to apply higher standards for these types of occupancies in order to offer a safe environment to persons who are often more vulnerable in emergency situations.
  • Sleeping time is a period of time where individuals are more vulnerable when an emergency situation arises and are slower to react and evacuate the building if need be.

Façades and multistorey garages

  • Yes. An owner must see to the maintenance of his/her building(s). Previously, the Public Buildings Safety Act prescribed that the owner was responsible for the maintenance of his/her building to ensure the safety of its occupants and users, who either lived, worked or circulated in it, without however defining precisely what is maintaining a building. The Building chapter of the Safety Code does not change the owner’s responsibility, but specifies what is expected from him/her.
  • Normally, no. This is generally the responsibility of the syndicate (in co-ownership). But you should verify this in your purchase contract or with your syndicate.
  • The Building chapter of the Safety Code (BCSC) defines the general standards which are contained within the Public Buildings Safety Act. The owners shall ensure that their building or its structure is free from any defects which might adversely affect safety, and, in particular, they shall:
    • have in place a preventive maintenance program to ensure that the building is in good condition;
    • hire qualified professionals;
    • maintain a register for the maintenance of the building;
    • supply to the qualified inspector all the available and necessary records for the purpose of reviewing the documentation and history of the building;
    • give the qualified inspector access to the premises so that he/she may carry out the inspections;
    • retain all the inspection and assessment reports for the lifetime of the building.
  • This is considered good practice, as agreed upon and adhered to by the professionals of the trade. Furthermore, in places where exists a regulation of a similar nature, this is generally what is required.
  • As a general rule, it is possible to make a periodic visual examination of a building of less than five (5) storeys. Also, the inspection of buildings of five (5) storeys and more, in general, requires scaffoldings and specialized equipment enabling to detect any weak spots or possibly dangerous conditions.
  • These two professions are the only ones that have the required competences to make such verifications and to establish which remedial actions are called for in the presence of dangerous conditions or of factors which may lead to the development of such conditions.
  • The costs vary depending on the dimensions of the façades or their sheathing, on the tests to be carried out in the case of multistorey garages, on the size of the building or the installation, etc. To make sure to obtain a fair price, it is recommended to always ask for a few quotes before granting any contract.
  • There are a few at the present time, but supply shall arise from the demand in this particular case. Some universities offer training programs for the professionals (e.g., Concordia University).

Implementation of the requirements and monitoring of compliance

  • The application will be under the responsibility of the RBQ for the buildings within its jurisdiction. The municipalities that have adopted it, whether in whole or in part, may apply it to all buildings.

    The RBQ and the municipalities that have adopted the BCSC work in partnership and use the same tools. Also, the RBQ has integrated in its mission support to the municipalities with regard to the application of any standard which is identical to one contained within the Safety Code.

  • The RBQ has trained its building inspectors to enforce compliance with the requirements.

    Furthermore, in recent years, some awareness promotion work has been carried out with the building owners and managers, and there shall be more to come. Beyond awareness promotion will also be collaboration, as the municipalities, through their fire prevention departments, represent our eyes and our ears. The RBQ continues to follow up both on the complaints and on the inspections.

    Also, the professional who is mandated to inspect a building has the obligation of notifying the RBQ of any situation jeopardizing public safety. The citizens are also more aware; more than ever they tend to notice and report situations. A 24-hour toll-free line has been made available to receive calls from the public. For any emergency with regard to safety, please dial 1 800 361-0761, extension 3.

  • It is for the sake of equity. The year of construction of the buildings coming under the new Safety Code can greatly vary among these. Thus, an identical upgrade requirement would not have the same impact for the owner of a building dating from the end of the 19th century than for the operator a building of less than 5 years of age. However, meeting with the requirements will enable to ensure the safety of the users of ALL public buildings of Quebec, and this, whatever the year of construction.
  • No. They may opt to harmonize their own regulations with the content of the Safety Code, depending on their needs, in which case they shall receive the support of the RBQ and benefit from immunity of liability.
  • The Building Act sets out powers to issue orders and allows criminal prosecutions in cases of non-compliance with the standards.
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