Mar 19, 2010

New case study on the transformation of a major regulatory system – The Model National Building Code

This is a special post to announce the publication of a case study examining the National Building Code of Canada. The story is about its transformation from a prescriptive to an objective-based code to become more flexible and allow for easier innovation.

The Model National Building Code is the single most important regulatory infrastructure to shape all buildings in Canada. In examining barriers and obstacles to sustainability – the underlying purpose of this blog -- it is important that we understand how the building code operates. More critically, we also want to appreciate what it takes to modify or change a large regulatory instrument like the building code. That’s an essential part of the process of removing obstacles and barriers to innovation and change.

Codes are very complicated instruments. Changing the basis on which they are built is therefore a complex and lengthy process. The detailed case study, prepared by André Potworowski and three MBA students from the University of Ottawa, provides a narrative account of that historical transformation which spanned a full decade.

This is a classic story of the significant effort needed to re-design a well-established regulatory system to make it more responsive to the needs of society.

One of the key lessons learned, is that once the new code was published in 2005, key stakeholders also had to undergo change. There is a lot of learning and training required to work effectively and take full advantage of this new regulatory framework. An international workshop of code writers and regulators from 17 countries was held in Calgary in September 2009 to share experiences from the transition to new performance- and objective-based building codes. The conclusion: we still have a way to go before the transition is complete and all the benefits of the new performance-based codes are reaped.

Special thanks to Director General Bob Bowen of the National Research Council’s Institute for Research in Construction who agreed to sponsor this project, and to Denis Bergeron and Guy Gosselin who helped throughout the research, data collection and editing process of the final draft.

To access the case study, click here: The Transformation of the National Building Code of Canada: from Prescriptions to Objectives


Andrew MacDonald said...

This is really needed. Looking forward to hearing the results . . . and afraid it'll be "another study." Hope not! People are frustrated with the inflexibility of the present code, when so much flexibility is needed.

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