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National Building Code should be available online, free of charge!

Contractor reader Yvan Labbe asks why he can't access the National Building Code online, for free. A very good question, we think.


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May 30, 2014 by Steve Payne

We asked last week for your comments on the National Building Code (NBC). There’s a poll at the right hand side of this site, where you can tell us whether you use the NBC and, if not, why not.

We’ve had a lot of feedback already. Such as this comment from Yvan Labbe, who asks a question I have often asked myself: Why should Canadians, in this online day and age, have to pay to access any government regulations whatsoever? Especially ones pertaining to building safely. Here’s how Yvan put it…

“Yes, I have used the National Building Code. I would use it a lot more often if I did not have to pay for it. As far as I am concerned, it should be available online free of charge so that people can refer to it. If not free you should be able to pay a bit to get to read different sections or pay so much per day to use it.”


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine


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47 Comments » for National Building Code should be available online, free of charge!
  1. D. Brian Baker says:

    The codes are all so expensive that students in school are now copying them or not buying them and still passing their levels. I have to buy the B149 gas and propane codes, B52, B51, B31, 22.1, Plumbing code, WTF… how do we not charge for our services! These could all be free and then many problems would simply diappear. Today we waste time and money like its water.

  2. Marten Burghgraef says:

    I would like to find a code book that is written in a language that I understand. I have an old copy of the Ont. building code but never use it. Can never find what I am looking for.

  3. J P Perkins says:

    I purchase the BC Building Code in the book form and refer to it regularly. I find it an invaluable tool for design and estimating. Knowing the rules before I start is an inexpensive way to prevent deficiencies. If the code is hard to decipher I call the city building inspector for his interpretation. This saves me money. A whole lot more than the cost of the Code.

  4. Mike says:

    All codes should be available online for free. When you’re trying to get something done all you need is to be able to search it but no, you have to buy a code book for 300.00 to use a couple times before the next one comes out. I have tried calling engineers to ask a question but they can’t be bothered with these little jobs. They are like gate keepers. Don’t want you to know but don’t want to help either.
    Sometimes things don’t get done right for that reason and governing bodies get bogged down with visiting the same work site several times because work has to be redone.
    It must make too much sense to make it available. I mean is selling the books more profitable then the fire inspector or building inspector making several trips to a job site. Canada has one of the most inefficient work forces in the world. I wonder why when everything gets done twice.

    • John says:

      Engineers can be liable for the advice they give. Which is why they don’t give out free advice; they can be sued for any advice, whether they billed for it or not.

  5. Dustin wood says:

    I agree totally. If it’s law for us to follow the codes it should be against the law for people to charge money for the rules that we are to follow.

  6. Manuela says:

    Hello,

    I agree that any government regulations should not come to a cost to any Canadian citizen. The building codes are there to make homes safe and people safe. Nobody should have to pay for their safety. If the government makes rules and regulations, we should all have access to this written information free of charge for us to view at any given time.

    I hope this changes as it’s frustrating trying to get this information for building safety. I work in the housing field and don’t think that we should pay for this.

    Please assist all of us in getting the government to stop charging us to read THEIR regulations!

    Manuela

    • Debbie says:

      I don’t think that there should be a charge to anyone – citizen or not – who is required to comply with the code requirements. It is especially frustrating when you have to pay the full price, but you are only dealing with one small section of the building code (e.g., the elevator section). If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then there is no excuse for withholding the information needed to manufacture a compliant system!

  7. Roger Boivin says:

    I too would use the NBC if there was free access

  8. Elke Love says:

    I use it regularly in my FR-EN translation work (mostly architectural drawing analyses for conformity with the code, so I have to get the English wording right). Luckily my local library, 30 minutes away, has a copy, and so far I’ve been lucky, it’s been on the shelves when I needed it. Yes, we should be able to access the Code for free. It’s expensive, and they keep updating it with new versions, which is of course necessary but means we’d have to buy another one every time.

  9. Gordie Eldridge says:

    Seriously, leave it to government beauracracy to make regulations and then make you pay to see what they are. I know many good contractors who have lost a lot of money because they didn’t know about updates to the code especially regarding energy efficiency.

  10. Jessie says:

    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 Association of Standards. It’s easier to this than have tax payers 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.

  11. Robin Clunie says:

    re free access to building codes.
    I am an architect in Scotland. The Scottish Building Standards for Domestic + Non-Domestic Buildings are downloadable for free from the Scottish Government portal and have been since 2009. Hard copies are charged for. I don’t know that cost as I use the free download, straight into my computer and available for instant reference and print out of any part for ‘hard copy’ file needs .
    The attitude is that these standards are mandatory for the health + safety of the building users and the public at large and, as such, should be available to all involved in the industry for reference and implementation at low or no cost to ensure those aims of the legislation are achieved.
    Hope this may be of assistance to those preparing their arguments for easy access.
    cheers.

    • Steve Payne says:

      Robin, thanks for reading us in Scotland, and for your information on the free building standards portal over there.

  12. Michael Fulcher says:

    It is important that Canadians have access to important regulations pertaining to safety. In the US, access to the National Fire Fire Code is available on line, free of charge from the NFPA website, http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/free-access.
    The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act is available on line free of charge.
    What goes with the Ontario building code and the Ontario Electrical Code?? Why should we pay to get information on public safety developed with tax payer money?

  13. sean Kelly says:

    As a student I am only able to access the national building code at school.
    Having free access to the Code for the duration of study for students would allow a more thorough understanding of the material.
    The free dissemination of the NBC will have a positive effect on the building industry (increasing compliance) that would more than compensate the government for the costs of research and publishing.
    I believe that free access will help promote quality in the trades and alleviate a burden for small to medium sized builders.

  14. These comments I have made over 20 years ago.

    As taxpayers, we paid for research and maintenance of
    various boards and research facilities. We do not have access to this information, having paid for it countless
    times over. When will this gouging of honest, hard working Canadians ever end.

    Is this what we are reduced to?

    A constant source of revenue from hundreds of various conduits, to maintain (6) figure salary of such indifferent bureaucrats.

    Some of which, could care less about this country and those who support the good for which it used to stand for. This reckless abandonment of the christian values
    we have held dear and treasured will certainly result in our ultimate demise.

    This is shown to be evident, in many recent ongoing, within some corrupt elements of those in positions of authority.
    Need only watch the evening news. When does this gouging ever end. God help us.

  15. Lou Roste says:

    Yes I feel it infringes on my rights as a citizen to not make building code available to a person planning a new construction. I feel it nothing less than a money grab and some power hungry inspector will tell you falsely something is code and you have no way of telling right or wrong without paying for something temporarily. This should be changed

  16. Al says:

    Government (NRC) should be obligated to provide free downloadable and updated copies of the National Building Code. It is absolutely ludicrous that this information must be paid for and most especially at such a high price. We pay enough taxes and downloadable information costs very little to provide.

  17. Derek Muise says:

    The price is high yes. The price of the research that goes into each page is equally high I’m sure. I’d prefer an imperial measurements edition. Part of any competent carpenters tool bag.

  18. Will says:

    If the building codes have been written by government. We as tax payers have already purchased every single code and law book ever made. It should all be free. Its our right. its definitely a safety risk making people pay to see them. People are more likely to not check the standards and do a job wrong.

  19. Eric Tait says:

    I agree that anyone should have free access to the National Building Code. It is ridicules that anyone should have to pay for it.

  20. Dylan says:

    I do refer to it during renovation projects, but as others have eluded to it’s a pain to get access. Luckily I have a neighbor who is an engineer who prints portions for me, but it is crazy this isn’t available online to everyone. Why revenue needs to be generated there I don’t know.

  21. Questo says:

    When real caring and responsible politics became obsolete, we the public, can only be left with apparent economic terrorists using the laws in majority style to protect them. For these terrorists, the tax vacuum machine never ends, and soon they want to tax the air, called carbon tax, how far these crooks will go?

  22. Barry Lipsett says:

    I am a homeowner in dispute with my contractor over workmanship. To access the NBC and the applicable CSA standard would cost over $500. How is a consumer, let alone a contractor, supposed to afford this? If the information is inaccessible, Canada’s building code system neither informs builders or protects consumers.

  23. Dan says:

    Complete Sham!!! I am a flooring contractor, no government issued regulation document should cost the public money! especially when it pertains to safety. i’m surprised they haven’t been sued for this. This should not be allowed. They make lots of money elsewhere taxing and such. This safety related document should not be locked up with a 335 dollar price tag. Complete sham!! very crooked

  24. Ben Frail says:

    I ran into this issue recently and have to say i was surprised to find that i was actually expected to PAY to be able to access building codes. If these codes are legislated and enforceable by law, how can they not be public domain? Without public access, that leaves everyone to the mercy of contractors and inspectors, with no way to know if what they are being told is factual, minus paying hundreds for a code book that most people will only use once or twice in a lifetime. Seems like something that shouldn’t be legal?

  25. Issuance of the Building Codes become a very good business for those, who is responsible for their publishing (I believe this is our Government and their institutions).
    Every 5 years thousands of copies for the cost of $300-400 for just i set is the cost.
    This is multi million dollar business for the minor changes, they are doing.

    Also consider, that these codes still have some major mistakes, like for example design wind load for Vancouver:
    1998 q1/30 – 0.44kPa; 2006 q1/50 – 0.48 kPa; 2012 – q1/50 – 0.45kPa
    These difference is also valid for other Canadian cities, which costs to Developers, Contractors and Final Users (Customers) a lot of money.

    For example first Building Code in Canada was issued in 1940 or 1941. And it wasn’t changed till 1965, as far as I know. 25 Years we worked on the same Code.

    Another sample is Washington State in US. The Code available on-line for anybody want to watch it.

  26. Wayne says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I think it is absurd that we are held to a standard but unless we pay the government hundreds of dollars, we will not be allowed to know what that standard is. There is no transparency here and one could venture as far as to say the Federal/Provincial governments are failing contractors/citizens. You are held to a standard which is not readily accessible to you but if you fail to meet the standard you are held financially responsible.

  27. Deborah says:

    I agree with Mr. Labbe. I’ve been working in the Construction field as a home designer for 37 years and, as a small business owner, find it difficult to pay $700 for the codes I need. I would think that this information would be cheaper or free with all of the taxes we, as small business owners, have to pay.

  28. J. E. Travis says:

    I agree. It would be great if the NBC was free, especially if you only need a certain section that pertains to your field but $350 over a 5 year time span equates to $70 per year. Not a big outlay in comparison to a costly deficiency fix due to not knowing the code!

  29. Totally. A couple of months ago, I was looking for information regarding elevators…to my surprise the NBC was not available on-line, unless I paid for it. All laws and regulations should be available for free to all citizens. It is ridiculous that citizens have to pay for access to laws or regulations when they pay taxes. It is their basic right to have free access to regulations such as the National Building Code.

  30. Philip Hall says:

    I am dumbfounded. This set of standards is only available for sale? For heavens sake, we want people using it, and we want our standards known …. but how will that happen with this exorbitantly priced document out of reach to many?

    Time to get this thing up on a server and sent regularly to users and anyone inclined to use it.

  31. Richard Rempel says:

    All builders should follow the National Building Code so it should be available online for free. What our government is saying is “these are the regulations you must follow, but you have to pay to see them.” Ridiculous.

  32. David kent says:

    Looking for the proper building code for basement poly before we pour the concrete floors

  33. Luke says:

    I am an apprentice going through training right now and I was required to purchase the NBC. That part I do not have a problem with. As a carpenter, it is our job to know the code. We purchase tools all the time to make sure the job is done correctly and efficiently. The NBC is just that, a tool. It gives us the information we need to do the job correctly the first time. So buying another tool is just part of the job for me. One thing I would like to have is an app on my phone that has the entirety of the NBC so I can easily access the information I need on the job without having to lug a giant book everywhere I go. I’m sure a programmer could accomplish that in his sleep. Then make it free to access with the number given with your already purchased codebook.

  34. Pat says:

    I would like to use the NECB more often and be nice to have open access at no cost and not beg, borrow, ask advice. Since the Building Codes are to the benefit of anyone occupying a building for any purpose they should be free for online access (which costs the least to produce and updates the easiest) and paid for by a small amount added to property taxes.

  35. Marvin Lu says:

    It should be free to download or viewed by every one, just same like the city by law.
    It’s a law, it’s a regulation, but it charges people money to know what you should not to do. How funny is that.

  36. Noreen Evers says:

    Apparently, the NBC is not law, and has no force of law until adopted by a municipality. Interesting but true.

  37. Robert Kane says:

    Since “ignorance of the law” is not accepted as a defense in a Canadian court of law then all laws and regulations, including the NBC, in the country should be available ‘free’ to any/every citizen seeking the information.
    A primary responsibility of government is to inform citizens of their rights AND their responsibilities.

  38. Robert in Vancouver says:

    Codes need to be available online for free. We all pay more than enough taxes to cover this cost 1000 times over. People in the construction industry need access to codes so they can do their jobs properly.

  39. Dan LaRiviere says:

    Canadian and Provincial building codes should be free to view and copy on-line just as all laws, acts and regulations should be.

  40. Myra says:

    I am working on my Construction Management Certificate at SAIT in Calgary, AB, and I find it so completely ridiculous that our government forces us to build homes according to the “code, ” but then denies us access to it (I.E. view it online for reference) unless we pay them almost $300.00. This is our corrupt government for you!!!!

  41. Joanne Ackland says:

    I would like to have free access because I am concerned about foundations and soils.