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Case Study: National Building Code Transformation

The Transformation of the National Building Code of Canada:
from Prescriptions to Objectives.

This case study is about the transformation of a very fundamental but not widely appreciated regulatory instrument, the Model National Building Code, into a more flexible and adaptable framework. The intent of that transformation was to clarify objectives and intents of decades of prescriptive regulations and, among other things, allow for more innovation, including innovations that would lead to a sustainable society. The transformation ensures both the policy and technical dimensions are clear. This case study is included here because it illustrates dramatically the process of how bureaucratic and administrative tools need to be adapted and harmonized if we are to remove obstacles to change.

The case study describes some of the steps over the 10 year period during which the National Building Code of Canada, the fundamental regulatory framework that shapes how we build and renovate buildings, was transformed from a prescriptive-based system, to a more flexible objective-based framework. It describes the huge challenge and complexity involved in this makeover. Removing obstacles to change, especially administrative and institutional barriers, is not a trivial pursuit.

This case study was funded by the Institute for Research in Construction at the National Research Council of Canada. The views expressed in this case study are those of the authors, and do not represent the NRC. More information on the National Building Code of Canada and the national model construction codes development system can be found at

This Case Study is part of a larger project, Making it Happen, that examines the barriers and obstacles to deploying sustainable technologies. (See )

J. André Potworowski

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