A key objective of the Building Act is to bring greater consistency to the technical building requirements in force across B.C. To achieve this, the Building Act gives the Province sole authority to establish technical building requirements.

Technical building requirements are the technical requirements for the construction, alteration, repair and demolition of buildings. A technical building requirement can define the methods, materials, products, assemblies, dimensions or performance required by the regulation. Technical building requirements can be found in the BC Building Code and in other provincial building regulations.

Under section 5 of the Act, if a matter is regulated in a provincial building regulation, any technical building requirements for that matter established in local government bylaws will be of no legal force at the end of a two-year transition period ending December 15, 2017.

The Province recognizes the goal of greater consistency needs to be balanced against reasonable flexibility for local governments to set technical building requirements to meet local needs. Under the Building Act, local governments have three options for doing so.

Option 1 - Unrestricted Matters: Under section 5 (4) of the Act, local governments can set technical building requirements for a limited number of matters the Province identifies as unrestricted. Unrestricted matters are matters regulated in the BC Building Code (or other provincial building regulations) for which local governments will have authority to set their own requirements in bylaws.

Unrestricted matters are listed in the Building Act General Regulation which came into force in June 2016. The list below includes matters added when the regulation was amended in February 2017.

List of Unrestricted Matters

  • Fire access route design
  • Parking spaces for use by persons with disabilities
  • Form, exterior design and finish of buildings and other structures, as they relate to the character of the development, in a development permit area established for one of the following purposes:
    • Revitalization of an area in which commercial use is permitted
    • Establishment of objectives for the form and character of intensive residential development
    • Establishment of objectives for the form and character of commercial, industrial, or multi-family residential development
    • In relation to an area in a resort region, establishment of objectives for form and character of development in the resort region
  • Form and exterior design of buildings and other structures; and machinery, equipment and systems external to buildings and other structures, to provide for energy and water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, in a development permit area established for one of the following purposes:
    • Energy conservation
    • Water conservation, or
    • The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • District energy systems and connections
  • Protection of designated heritage properties

List of Temporarily Unrestricted Matters

  • Transmission of sound into a building from external sources
  • In-building radio repeaters
  • Exterior design and finish of buildings in relation to wildfire hazard within a development permit area
  • Firefighting water supply (fire-flow demand)
  • Flood construction level requirements

List of Temporarily Unrestricted Matters with Time Limitations

These matters are temporarily unrestricted only if the bylaw(s) specifying the technical building requirement(s) for the matter is enacted on or before December 15, 2017 and is not amended after that date, as it relates to the matter:

  • Fire sprinklers and fire sprinkler systems
  • Accessibility of a building
  • Adaptable dwelling units

List of Unrestricted Matters with Conditions: BC Energy Step Code

Two matters are unrestricted, with two conditions, to support the implementation of the BC Energy Step Code by local governments:

  • The conservation of energy
  • The reduction of greenhouse gases

The two conditions are:

  • Local governments may not require buildings to be constructed except in conformance with a step described in Article or of Division B of the BC Building Code; and
  • Local governments may not modify a requirement of, or impose requirements in addition to those set out in, Subsection 9.36.6. or 10.2.3. of Division B of the BC Building Code.

The Province will advise stakeholders when it intends to remove a matter from the unrestricted matters list.

Detailed information about the unrestricted matters list is available in the revised B1 Appendix section of the Building Act Guide and the Building Act General Regulation, and the BC Energy Step Code web page on this site.

Option 2 - Apply for a Local Authority Variation: Local governments and other local authorities can request a variation under section 7 of the Building Act. A local authority variation is a building requirement or set of requirements that:

  • differs from requirements in provincial building regulations (primarily the BC Building Code);
  • is requested of the Province by one or more local authorities; 
  • requires the Minister’s approval; and
  • if approved, is enacted though a provincial building regulation that applies in the jurisdiction(s) of the local government(s) making the request.

Option 3 - Change to the Building Code: If the variation a local government is seeking is broadly applicable to other jurisdictions across the province, the local government may wish to consider requesting a change to the BC Building Code.

For More Information

The content on this page is periodically updated by the Province of British Columbia per the date noted on the page: April 11, 2017.