Authority for remote building inspections could be enshrined in the Ontario Building Code beginning in January 2022. The Ontario government is seeking comments on a proposed amendment, currently posted on the provincial regulatory registry, which would explicitly allow for alternatives to inspectors’ physical presence on a building site.
As outlined in the accompanying discussion paper, some municipal building officials have asked for clarification following their experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, many scrambled to find ways to meet statutory timelines for conducting inspections while minimizing personal interactions on construction sites in keeping with public health protocols. In subsequent months, some building departments have developed their own procedures and policies for remote inspections.
“While the Building Code does not prohibit remote inspections, building officials advised that changes to the code that clearly state that building inspectors and building departments can carry our remote inspections would be beneficial,” the discussion paper states.
The proposed amendment — to be labelled 18.104.22.168 (3.1) in Division C of the code — states that inspectors or code agencies “may choose” to use “alternate means” to conduct inspections rather than attend the site in person. The discussion paper suggests that could include “the use of drones, photos, video, live feed (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc.), telephone discussions with on-site constructors or design professionals, reports from constructors or design professionals, or written statements from constructors and design professionals”. It also indicates municipal building departments will have flexibility to establish further rules about when remote inspections will or will not be allowed.
Ultimately, building officials will bear responsibility for properly conducted inspections. “Regardless of the methods chosen by building departments and inspectors regarding inspection of construction, it is key that they are satisfied that compliance with the Building Code Act, Building Code and permit has been achieved,” the discussion paper reiterates.
Interested parties are invited to submit comments and/or make suggestions about other alternative options for conducting inspections until October 23. If adopted, the amendment would go into force on January 1, 2022.