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Posted: March 15, 2017

New fire sprinkler requirements in B.C.

An update to the BC Building Code will require fire sprinklers to be installed on the balconies of all new four-storey wood-frame residential buildings.

Under the current BC Building Code, sprinklers generally are not required on balconies or in attics in residential buildings four-storeys and under, but are generally required in residential buildings greater than four storeys

The updated 2015 National Building Code, on which BC Building Code updates are based, requires sprinklers on balconies of four-storey residential buildings. Although the next edition of the BC Building Code is not scheduled to be adopted until later this year, the province is taking steps to adopt the new sprinkler standards sooner.

The new sprinkler requirements will take effect on July 20. The province is providing a transition period to allow time for the industry to adapt to the new requirement.

Building codes and fire sprinkler standards apply at the time of construction and do not apply retroactively to require owners to upgrade existing buildings.

“B.C. is a leader in fire safety requirements, but we continually review those rules and update them. Although the next edition of our building code won’t be adopted until late 2017, we wanted to implement this change as soon as possible, in the interest of safety,” stated Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing.

“Research conducted by the University of the Fraser Valley indicates wood-frame multi-storey residential buildings are vulnerable to fires on balconies. The B.C. government’s proactive implementation of the new building regulations to mitigate this issue ahead of the national code change is a progressive commitment to fire safety in British Columbia,” added Len Garis, City of Surrey fire chief and adjunct professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The BC Building Code regulates the design and construction of buildings. The BC Building Code is based on the model National Building Code. New editions are adopted approximately every five years.

Under the 1992 BC Building Code, sprinklers were mandated in all new four-storey combustible residential buildings. Under the 1998 BC Building Code, sprinklers were mandated on all new care facilities. The 2012 BC Building Code is largely based on these requirements.

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