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Canadian Codes Updated, Effects on Fenestration Industry

December 20, 2011

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Much is written about code development in the U.S., but little is often said about the building codes of our neighbor to the north. While their code change cycle is not as frequent as ours, new versions have recently been released and will be of interest to manufacturers selling across the border.

National Building Code of Canada
Part 3: Fire Protection, Occupant Safety and Accessibility
Part 5: Environmental Separation
Part 9: Housing and Small Buildings
Parts 5 & 9
Appendix C, Table C-2
National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB)


National Building Code of Canada
The National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) is in an objective-based code format in which all requirements are linked to one or more of the objectives of safety, health, accessibility and fire/structural protection. It sets out technical provisions for the design and construction of new buildings and for the alteration, change of use and demolition of existing buildings.

The recently-published 2010 version incorporates close to 800 technical changes approved by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to address technological advances as well as health and safety concerns raised since 2005. As NBCC is a model code that gets adopted by the provinces and is not enforced directly, this change has only begun to appear in provincial building codes. Several jurisdictions began using NBCC 2010 in 2011 or will be doing so in early 2012. Nova Scotia was the first to adopt the NBCC 2010, as it went into effect there on June 1, 2011.

The changes directly or potentially relevant to the window and door industry are:

Part 3: Fire Protection, Occupant Safety and Accessibility

  • Protection against Falls from Residential Windows. A requirement has been introduced providing for a guard or a mechanism that prevents a window from opening more than 100 mm (about 4 inches).
Concerns from various advocacy groups, coupled with recent incidents of children falling through operable residential windows, prompted the development of this technical change to the NBC. As part of the overall initiative to harmonize Parts 3 and 9, it was noted that protection against falls from such windows was not addressed in Part 3.

Part 5: Environmental Separation
  • Structural Loads. Seismic effects will now be taken into account only for post-disaster buildings (i.e. buildings essential to the continued provision of services in the event of a disaster).
Part 9: Housing and Small Buildings
  • Lateral Loads. There are only minor changes, as far as the wind load provisions are concerned. The most critical change in NBCC 2010 is related to the update of the reference velocity pressures. A probabilistic-based approach for exposure to wind and seismic forces using environmental load data was added, as were prescriptive requirements for high-load areas.
The tabulated values are provided for each location and correspond to a return period of 50 years. The new values are based on recent statistical analysis performed by Environment Canada using available weather data up to 2008. As a minimum reference velocity pressure, the NBCC 2010 will use the value of 0.30 kPa.

Following the changes of the 2005 version, NBCC 2010 will reduce the number of different exposure categories by eliminating Exposure C. It should be noted that Exposures A, B and C were applicable only under the dynamic (detailed) method whereas the terms open and rough were used for the static (simplified) method. In addition, Exposure C was in use for cases where the terrain was very rough, such as large cities with several high-rise buildings. Another section revised in the 2010 version is that describing the minimum required length of the upstream terrain fetch. In the 2005 version of NBCC, the requirement for using Exposures B or C was that the applicable terrain roughness persists in the upwind direction for at least 1.0 km or 10 times the building height, whichever is larger. In NBCC 2010, this requirement will be increased to 20 times the building height.
  • Low Permeance Materials in the Building Envelope. A simplified approach to requiring the correct position and properties for low air and vapor permeance materials in building envelopes was introduced.
Parts 5 and 9
  • Windows, Doors and Skylights. AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 is now referenced in the NBCC, replacing a number of Canadian standards, some of which were outdated. This resulted in a substantial reorganization of Sections 9.6 and 9.7. Other Canada-specific requirements are listed in CSA's Canadian Supplement (CSA A440S1, Canadian Supplement to AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440, NAFS – North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for Windows, Doors, and Skylights).
In the 2010 NBCC, Part 5 will contain a new subsection to ensure consistent application of the requirements and compliance procedures. In Part 9, a single new section on windows, doors and skylights will replace the current sections for windows and doors. Prescriptive requirements have been updated to reflect NAFS, and performance requirements were added, including some for minimum thermal performance targets.

Canadian builders, engineers and consultants will need to learn a new procedure for specifying windows, doors and skylights, as the current A, B, and C rating system used by the 2000 edition of CSA A440 is being replaced with actual design load and pressure ratings. Any door fabricator selling into the Canadian market will be required to adhere to product marking specifications and have all exterior door products third-party tested for performance in areas that include: positive and negative design pressure, water penetration resistance, air infiltration/exfiltration and forced entry resistance.

In addition, to ensure the fenestration products are appropriate for the conditions and geographic location, performance grades for windows, doors, and skylights will need to be selected according to CSA A440S1, also referenced in the 2010 NBCC. This supplement includes performance standards for screens, as well as heightened criteria for snow loads and air infiltration.
  • Sealant Standards. Outdated standards for sealants were replaced with current ASTM standards that address relevant product categories and contain equivalent or similar performance criteria.
Appendix C, Table C-2
  • Seismic Values and Climatic Data. Climatic data and localities were updated, and the equation derived to fit the seismic observational data was improved.
The climatic data in Table C-2 have not been seriously re-analyzed and updated for many years. In the case of wind loads, for example, the vast majority of the reference wind pressures have not changed since the 1960s. The accuracy of the statistical analysis of wind, or any other climatic parameter, can be greatly improved with the addition of another 30 or 40 years of data. An update of this data is necessary to maintain the currency of design in Canada. The work on updating the data is now underway and has been completed for the hourly wind pressures and heating degree-days. This material is presented for information purposes only and is shown as changes to the hourly wind pressure and heating degree-day values.

The sites for which the climatic and seismic data are presented in Table C-2 are revised as follows:
• Add new locations to facilitate determination of seismicity for designers
• Delete locations that do not correspond to the name of the locality noted in Table C-2 or where there is no town at the location (only two sites are affected)
• Shift some established locations to better suit representative values for seismic and climatic data in that municipality (the shift of locations does not impact the climatic data; only the seismic values are affected).

The Canadian Window and Door Manufacturers Association (CWDMA) opines that the 2010 NBCC “will have significant ramifications for the door industry. Requirements for doors to meet the national building code have been part of the code for about 20 years, but they were never enforced. It is anticipated that the requirements in the 2010 NBC, which state that side-hinged doors shall be designed, constructed and installed so that they resist the ingress of precipitation, control air leakage, resist the ingress of insects and vermin, resist forced entry and are easily operable, will be enforced, as the new version comes into effect across Canada. Building code officials are going to be aware of the new requirements, which indicate that there must be a clear indication on the door that it complies with the code, which means that doors will require a label to demonstrate compliance with the code.” Similar to U.S. provisions, exterior side-hinged entry door systems tested and rated to the water penetration resistance test pressure of 0 Pa must have a designation identifying the product for "limited water" (LW) performance.

CWDMA’s Side-hinged Door Sub-Committee is preparing a document that will provide guidelines for Testing and Limited Substitution Component Procedures, covering components normally assembled to form a side-hinged entrance door system and will apply to both single and double door systems and both in-swing and out-swing installations, including:
  • Astragals
  • Door frames (jambs and headers)
  • Door glass and door glass assemblies
  • Door and sidelight slabs-steel or composite
  • Door and sidelight slabs-wood stile and rail
  • Hinges and single point locksets
  • Mullions
  • Sills (thresholds)
  • Sweeps and weather stripping
  • Transoms and full glass sidelights
The CWDMA document is intended to serve as a guideline to help the Canadian door manufacturer/pre-hanger determine the technical steps to have their entrance door systems tested according to NAFS-08 and determine the procedures to substitute different components of their door system without retesting. It essentially defines conditions under which a waiver of re-test can be granted for the substitution and specifies additional tests, when required.

National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB)
Just released on November 18, the 2011 National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) provides minimum requirements for the design and construction of energy-efficient buildings and covers the building envelope, systems and equipment for heating, ventilating and air-conditioning, service water heating, lighting and the provision of electrical power systems and motors. It applies to new buildings, as well as to substantial renovations in existing ones. It does not apply to farm buildings or housing and smaller buildings covered in Part 9 of the NBC.

The NECB is in an objective-based code format in which all requirements are linked to a new sub-objective, Excessive Use of Energy, under the new principal objective, Environment.

Some energy-related changes that had already gone into effect include minimum energy performance requirements in the Ontario Building Code (OBC) in 2006 and the British Columbia Energy Efficiency Act in 2009. Ontario is introducing minimum energy performance requirements in their Energy Efficiency Act in 2010. Ontario's SB12, taking effect December 31, 2011, has an objective that every home built in the province will meet an EnerGuide rating of 80 on a scale of 0 to 100.

EnerGuide for New Homes is a Canada-wide evaluation program that shows a home purchaser the energy performance of their home, both prior to construction and after. Developed by Natural Resources Canada (NRC), the program rates a home's energy efficiency just like the EnerGuide labeling program does for appliances. For new homes, prior to construction the home's construction plan is assessed for insulation values of its envelope: walls including windows and doors, roof and floor. Once constructioni of the home is completed, it is then inspected by a certified third-party "energy advisor," including the use of a blower test, to determine if it was built to specifications and then certified and labeled as to its energy efficiency.

The Canadian ENERGY STAR® program complements EnerGuide and identifies most energy efficient windows and doors and other products that meet or exceed premium levels of energy efficiency. The Canadian ENERGY STAR program for fenestration products, introduced by NRC in 2004 and most recently revised and upgraded in 2010, has been a strong program to help manufacturers promote energy efficient products. NRC recently announced that a further round of significant changes to the Canadian ENERGY STAR program for windows and doors is already under development to take effect in early 2014.

Through the ecoENERGY Retrofit - Homes program of the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) and its complementary regional programs, homeowners can receive grants for eligible upgrades. Even if homeowners are not applying for a grant, they can obtain an energy evaluation for their home through the EnerGuide Rating System (Existing Homes).

For more information and an up-to-the-minute status of Canadian codes and programs, visit the following.

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