Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

Why the National Building Code isn’t free… and shouldn’t be, either

Canadian Contractor

The National Research Council uses funds from the sale of the National Building Code to do valuable work, reader Jessie says

Recently, some contractors have posted complaints that the National Building Code, which costs $295 for a print version, $182 a year online, should be FREE. There have been a lot of votes in favour of a no-charge NBC. But reader Jessie begs to differ, and here’s the post…

“The NBC is published by the National Research Council of Canada. If you read what it does in the act that created it , you may understand what may play a part in it. The funds that it makes goes back to the NRC to make up-to-date building models, and fire-safety models. The same goes for the Canadian Standards Association. It’s easier to do this than have taxpayers pay out of pocket to fund these entities. It would be nice to see them to allow apprentices access to these via their apprenticeship number at a discounted rate.”


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11 Comments » for Why the National Building Code isn’t free… and shouldn’t be, either
  1. Clem OKONKWO says:

    I use the Canadian Building Law and National Building Code on Domestic and International Jobs. My small Building company has gained Integrity compared with other competing Contractors whom in pursuit of profit, subscribe to short-cuts or oblige owners’ ignorance with Local Contractors’ Economic squeeze and Sub-Standard materials for Collapsed Structures and Labor Accidents.

  2. John Standeven says:

    The National Building Code, and every government entity, needs to be put on a very short tight money leash. Their roles should be kept to a basic minimum rather than a monument building mission. If they want their literature read it must be accessible and free to contractors. Condense the pages, reduce the legal jargon, and make sure that every new printed version and changes are essential and not following calendar activated printing.



  4. Josh says:

    At least for everyone in Ontario, the Ontario Building Code, since it is law, is free to view and is available at e-laws.
    Seriously, even at $182 online, the National Building Code is a reasonable expense to a business – how much do you spend on coffee a year?

    • wil neish says:

      British Columbia is the same. All public library’s have a copy and free online access. You only pay if you want a personal copy which is no different than buying a textbook. When you work for a living you need to buy the tools. The government in BC already pays for the apprenticeship training and school so this is a small expense in comparison to that.

  5. Scott Fochler says:

    Contractors and builders need to elevate their profession to that of many of their counterparts such as architects, Engineers, etc. and create a professional association that provides accreditation….( you know those little letters behind your name). This council requires payment to belong to; but, it also provides discounted access to trade related materials etc. This organization could be the Canadian Home Builders Association or a multitude of others that are currently operating under the guise of improving the quality and skill of this profession. Apprentices that are training and employees for an accredited company would receive free access to the information, while employed by that accredited company. We do not want to work for free, so you can not expect the people that create the guidelines to work for free either. The sad part is that many parts of our building code have not improved quality. In fact in many cases the quality has diminished. The building code is not about quality. It is about liability and the rule of law

  6. Steve M says:

    The NBC should not be FREE, you’re joking right?

    The persons involved in creating/revising or updating the NBC get paid by the Government of Canada. Their income is not covered by the sale of copies of the NBC. If that was the case, there would be one person working at the NRC or they would be working for $1.00 a year.
    The tax payers of Canada have already paid for the NBC document to be produced. It should be available online in PDF or word document format for FREE as the tax payers of Canada have already paid for it.

    If you want a hard copy, yes you pay the cost to create the hard copy, but you should be able to download the electronic copy for free.

    To say you must buy the NBC to know what the document contains is extortion. The authority in charge says you must conform to the NBC and then they say you must pay money to see what the NBC says.

  7. Eric Rojo says:

    You say “…It’s easier to do this than have taxpayers pay out of pocket to fund these entities…”. Isn’t that what contractors and designers are doing now to fund the NRC? And isn’t access to these documents by designers and contractors not only beneficial, but critical, to ALL Canadians? My point is that it should be funded by general tax revenues. I am an architect by the way.

  8. Ian says:

    Building, plumbing, electrical, etc codes are statutes. They represent enforceable standards to which everyone must abide. When governments enact codes and make their compliance mandatory, it comes with the obligation to provide free and unfettered access. Not only is the charging of fees for access to statutes patently wrong (One can look up any federal or provincial statute for free) , the amounts charged are nothing short of obscene and obstructive.

  9. Gene says:

    The government imposes a building code, but the only way you can know what the code says is by purchasing it!!! This parallels the Chinese government policy of sending a bill to the family of the executed criminal in order to pay for the bullet used in the execution. Makes no sense.

  10. Brad C says:

    I was directly involved with many standards organizations for nine years from the perspective of trying to simplify content organization, interpretation, distribution and enable modern business models. Much of this as you can imagine doesn’t work in the slow progressing standards world. Standards were built on volunteers such as how many of the standards are produced by CSA today. People all year go to CSA and meet at their expense to discuss codes for literally nothing more than recognition of being a part of the publication. As they state they wouldn’t exist with out their volunteers.

    Reading the comments and from my own experience of trying to move them into a modern model, wouldn’t it make sense to have open source standards online that are governed by a set of rules and suggestions voted upon nationally and leave the testing of products to the organizations? The Code itself could be free to students or pay per use or small subscription based and have the majority of revenue based around added services such as industry related AI applications, analytics, etc. These publishers need to stop selling books and worrying about copyright and start offering publications as a PaaS (publications as a service) model.

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