Historical climate data is losing relevance in Canada’s model national building, energy, fire and plumbing codes as severe storms, drought and intense heat waves become more frequent. Researchers with the National Research Council (NRC) have embarked on a new initiative to evaluate and account for weather-related forces that buildings and infrastructure will need to endure into the future.
“In 2017, it is a necessity to start planning to adapt our buildings and infrastructure to withstand new loads,” says Richard Tremblay, the NRC’s general manager of construction.
The project received a $40-million funding allocation in the 2016-17 federal budget, with $20 million earmarked for risk modelling and the development of new guidance documents for buildings and the remainder directed to heavy infrastructure such as roads, bridges and storm water systems. Analysts will be testing assumptions about wind, rain and snow loads, freeze-thaw cycles and forest fire risks among some of the major considerations for climate resilience.
“We are not looking at historical data. We are looking at predictive data,” explains Philip Rizcallah, program director with the NRC. “We are going to be designing our buildings based on the new data.”
This will be particularly important for renovation guides as owners/managers of existing buildings strive to improve resilience and strengthen their competitive position in the market. “What buildings have had to withstand over the past 100 years may not be what they’ll have to withstand going forward,” Rizcallah notes.
The new climate data and guidelines for resiliency are expected to be ready for 2020, although not all the associated specifications will be in the next editions of the model national codes. NRC is concurrently working with CSA/ULC to update the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code and the Canadian Electrical Code to reflect climate change adaptation.