Régie du bâtiment du Québec

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Sole construction and safety codes

Under the Building Act (CQLR, chapter B-1.1) and the laws governing the municipal sector, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) and municipalities have the power to adopt different construction and safety regulations for the building categories within their respective jurisdictions.

Over the next few years, the Québec government will progressively harmonize building construction and safety standards and establish common regulatory content across Québec. 

This will lead to the province-wide adoption of 

  • a single construction code and 
  • a single safety code,
  • regardless of building type or municipality size.

It will facilitate

  • doing away with regulatory discrepancies and duplications, 
  • ensuring uniform construction quality and safety throughout Québec, regardless of building type, and 
  • referencing the latest national standards developed by industry and government experts.

Adoption of Bill 17

Bill 17, An Act to amend various provisions for the main purpose of reducing regulatory and administrative burden, was assented to on October 27. 

It amends the Building Act, in particular by stipulating that only more stringent standards may be adopted by municipalities, thus promoting a single construction code and a single safety code.

Numerous benefits

Harmonization will benefit many stakeholders; in the long run, everyone will enjoy better construction quality and greater building safety. It is also one of the measures set out in the government’s 2020–2025 action plan on regulatory and administrative streamlining.

For municipalities 

  • Promotes faster updating of municipal bylaws.
  • Reduces administrative burden by eliminating the need to duplicate the regulatory design process in each municipality.
  • Standardizes construction quality and building safety in all municipalities.
  • Municipalities can use the Building Act provisions to enforce regulations while enjoying immunity for themselves and their inspection staff against any claims arising from enforcement.

For citizens, contractors and designers

  • Ensures uniform construction quality and building safety, in line with the latest national standards.
  • Avoids confusion about which regulatory authority to consult and which standards apply in municipalities for a given building type.
  • No need for contractors and designers to build differently from one municipality to the next.
  • Promotes labour mobility.

Towards a concerted-action strategy

In 2020, a permanent consultation mechanism was set up to involve municipalities in developing regulations. 

The RBQ, which represents Québec on national standards committees, will bring municipalities’ concerns to these committees. We estimate that this consultation will need to be completed in time for the next national model code development cycle (2025). The codes would then come into force 18 months after publication, i.e., in 2027.

Although code harmonization has been awaited for several years, the RBQ is aware that this is an exercise in cooperation and listening. Municipalities and the RBQ will benefit from working together from the same foundation. In this way, they can support each other and develop shared tools (inspection grids, public awareness material, etc.) to facilitate regulatory compliance monitoring. Several meetings have already been organized with municipalities.

Shared responsibilities

When Bill 17 was on the table, some municipal stakeholders expressed concern that municipalities would be left holding the bag for construction quality. However, this will still be a responsibility shared by the parties involved in a project, namely, the designer, the contractor and the workers. The same applies to the owners of unsafe or poorly maintained buildings.

Over the coming months, a new division of roles and responsibilities between the RBQ and municipalities will have to be established for enforcing building construction and safety regulations.

However, municipalities will retain the following responsibilities:

  • Adopting more stringent standards for items not covered or adopting standards better adapted to specific situations, as needed (e.g., architectural constraints in historic neighbourhoods),
  • Adopting zoning bylaws,
  • Issuing construction permits.

Contractors will have to continue complying with current codes and best practices, regardless of the municipality in which they operate.

Transition and support

Given the current regulatory disparity, the impact of harmonization is likely to vary from one municipality to the next. A transitional period will give municipal administrations time to adapt to the changes. The transition details will be defined in consultation with the municipalities.

In collaboration with municipal federations (FQM-UMQ), the RBQ has set up a consultation mechanism that could lead to the adoption of common positions, particularly for developing regulations. 

The RBQ will develop a range of services to support municipalities. This could be based on the services offered to municipalities that have already adopted the Buildings Chapter of the Safety Code (BCSC). Services could include

  • training for municipal fire department and inspection personnel,
  • on-site support in complex situations,
  • production of tools (e.g., guides, interpretation bulletins, inspection grids),
  • etc.

A number of details still need to be hammered out before the codes can be harmonized. Over the coming months, the RBQ will continue its work to develop the regulations needed to make this reform a success. 

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