HALIFAX - The province is moving to establish a committee to consider changing building codes in order to improve accessibility in new residential buildings, a city committee heard Monday.
HRM’s manager of municipal compliance gave the accessibility advisory committee an update on proposed changes that would require lever-style doorknobs and faucets, wider doors and hallways, and out-swinging bathroom doors in new homes.
Changing HRM’s building code needs approval from a provincial minister, but Jim Donovan told the committee members that after his discussions with the province, the Nova Scotia Building Code Advisory (NSBCAC) committee took action without a formal request from the city.
“They like the idea. There’s never been enough traction around this in the past,” said Donovan, to surprised and pleased reaction from the committee members.
Donovan said the NSBCAC voted last week to begin developing the terms of reference for a new committee, focused specifically on building codes, that would include representatives from HRM and the residential construction industry.
“There’s always been some concern about the pushback from the residential housing sector,” said Donovan. “I’ve spoken to the (Nova Scotia) Homebuilders Association…their perspective is that as long as it’s a rule that applies in the entire province, we’re good with it.”
The committee could recommend letting HRM make the changes alone, or changing the provincial building code – though Donovan said it may not agree with all the recommendations.
“The province knows that HRM is 70 per cent of the construction driver in the province…so they know our research is as good as it’s going to get,” he said. “But certainly, they’re not going to stand behind all our recommendations.”
Donovan said city staff have compared Nova Scotia and HRM’s building codes to those in British Columbia, Vancouver and Ontario to determine what “liveability” requirements existed in homes.
He said in those jurisdictions, elements like doorknobs, light switch and receptacle heights and plumbing rough-ins are governed in homes and all residential buildings, without any impact on the cost of construction.
“(It) changes nothing about the cost of the building, it just re-directs the mindset of the builder,” he said. “It’s really about changing the convention.”
Donovan said potential members could be invited to join the new committee in August.