Whether you are an inventor, a manufacturer or a distributor, if you have a construction product that you want to introduce to the Canadian market, you need to know how construction product approvals work in Canada.
The Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) has been an integral part of the Canadian construction product approval process for more than 30 years.
We have intimate knowledge of the process, the compliance pathways and how Canadian construction regulators typically want to see code compliance demonstrated.
Read below to find out more about construction product approvals in Canada. You may also wish to consult an independent, knowledgeable professional, as it is your responsibility to know and abide by all required approvals and applicable regulations and by-laws.
What approvals do I need?
Product regulations can include, for example, requirements relating to a product's manufacturing, safety, composition (i.e. materials), performance, usage and maintenance.
Testing can be necessary both initially and throughout the entire life cycle of a product: from the ideation and design stage through process development and manufacturing, including shipment and storage, and on to customer acquisition and handling. Anyone involved in the development and sale of a product must be prepared to meet all regulatory conditions set out by the relevant authority.
Building, fire, plumbing and energy code compliance
Since the performance of a construction product is related to how it is used in a building, the products' compliance with applicable building, fire, plumbing and energy codes is regulated at the point of use, not at the point of sale or import.
As a result, while you may be able to import, manufacture or sell your product without any obligation to demonstrate code compliance, users may have difficulty obtaining approval for use (for example, getting a building permit) if there is insufficient evidence your product complies with Canadian code requirements.
Consumer product safety
If you manufacture, import, sell, advertise, test, package or label a product that may reasonably be expected to be used for non-commercial purposes, you have obligations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA). The purpose of the Act is to protect the public by addressing or preventing dangers to human health or safety that are posed by consumer products in Canada.
The CCPSA applies to suppliers of consumer products in Canada, including manufacturers, importers, distributors, advertisers and retailers. The Act recognizes that suppliers of consumer products have an essential role to play in addressing any dangers to human health or safety that may be posed by these products in today's global marketplace.
The CCPSA is administered by Health Canada, and is separate from code compliance requirements. For more information, consult Health Canada's Consumer Product Safety Act Quick Reference Guide.
There are more than a dozen acts and regulations administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada that facilitate environmental protection, pollution prevention, biodiversity and conservation, sustainable development and other significant environment-related efforts.
Manufacturers, importers and distributors are advised to be aware of these regulations and their potential implications for their products. For more information consult Acts and regulations: Environment and Climate Change Canada.
There may also be provincial-level requirements (for example, the Ontario Environmental Protection Act) that apply to your products.
Other regulatory requirements
There can be many regulatory requirements that apply to your product, depending on a variety of factors, such as materials, manufacturing, supply and other considerations. It is good practice to consult with knowledgeable professionals if you are unsure what applies to you.
Construction approval process
In Canada, construction regulation and enforcement are generally under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. Product approval is granted by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), usually a building official, who has been delegated authority by the province or territory.
The approval for use of products in a building is typically made through a local building permit process. The AHJ's approval is based on the requirements of the relevant regulation (for example, the applicable building code for that jurisdiction) and the evidence supplied to them during the permit or design process.
To be approved for use in a building, the product must comply with all applicable requirements of the building regulations in force in that jurisdiction.
The party seeking approval is responsible for demonstrating compliance to the AHJ, following the appropriate code-prescribed pathway.
According to the national and provincial construction codes in Canada, there are 2 paths to achieving code compliance:
- as an acceptable solution, meeting all provisions of the applicable acceptable solution in Division B of the code (for example, complying with a code-referenced standard); or
- as an alternative solution, having at least the same level of performance as an acceptable solution.
When a product falls within the scope of a code-referenced standard, the use of that product may be accepted by an AHJ as an acceptable solution, subject to any limitations in the relevant code on how the product can be used.
However, when the product cannot be assessed via any code-referenced standard, or when the use of the product is outside the scope of the code-prescribed requirements, its compliance may be accepted by an AHJ as an alternative solution.
How to demonstrate compliance
You can demonstrate code compliance through testing, engineering analyses, certification or other technical means of providing evidence that a product meets a set of requirements.
The AHJ has the final say on what those requirements will be for a given project, taking into consideration several factors, including but not limited to the following:
- building type
- occupancy type
- intended function
- intended use (location) in the building
- life safety risk
Sometimes compliance requirements are prescribed directly by the code, and the path to compliance is clear. In these cases, AHJs will often accept evidence of code compliance in the form of:
- a manufacturer's published literature,
- test reports from an accredited laboratory, or
- product certification from an accredited certification body.
The means of conformity assessment is left to the discretion of the AHJ, and is typically based on the level of risk associated with the product.
For example, an AHJ may require a product certification for a high-risk product (such as structural or life safety–related products) in order to ensure third-party verification and ongoing maintenance of compliance via mechanisms like manufacturing plant surveillance.
When a product or its use is not directly addressed by the code, AHJs will often require that a submission be made following their jurisdiction's process for alternative solutions.
Alternative solution submissions typically require technical evidence that demonstrates that a product will provide at least the same level of performance required by an acceptable solution, based on the objectives and functional statements associated with the relevant code provisions. These submissions typically take the form of:
- an engineering review (including supporting evidence such as test data),
- a design professional's opinion (in which case the design professional takes responsibility for the compliance), or
- a CCMC code compliance assessment.
The AHJ reviews the submission and determines whether all code requirements have been satisfied. In these cases, the AHJ has full discretion to accept or reject the submission or request additional information.
The role of the CCMC
As described above, there are many ways to achieve code compliance in Canada, and the needs from project to project depend on a variety of factors.
The CCMC was created to centralize the work of product assessments and provide a national service. CCMC product assessments are recognized by AHJs across Canada and are generally accepted by those AHJs as sufficient evidence of code compliance in most circumstances and jurisdictions (subject to the scope of the assessment, and relevant conditions and limitations stated in the assessment).
The CCMC is a trusted means to demonstrate compliance with construction codes (such as building, plumbing, fire and energy code requirements) and other building-related performance requirements. However, a product assessment by the CCMC does not necessarily address all potentially applicable regulatory requirements. It is your responsibility to ensure compliance with national, provincial and local regulations and requirements.
While you work with the CCMC to achieve the recognition of a CCMC product assessment—which may involve the development of new technical criteria for innovative products—you may also be able to achieve project-by-project acceptance. This will be subject to the agreement of the AHJ with the assistance of testing, engineering or design professionals who can provide evidence of code compliance on a case-by-case basis.
The CCMC is referenced in the National Model Codes as an organization that provides code compliance assessments and is recognized by every province and territory across Canada.
If you have questions about the code compliance process in Canada, a CCMC client care officer will be happy to answer your questions.