Construction product approvals in Canada

 

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 an 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.

The approval process

In Canada, construction product approval is granted by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), usually a building official, or building designer (for example, an engineer or architect). The approval is typically made through a local building permit process. The AHJ approves based on the requirements of the relevant regulation (for example, provincial or national code), and the evidence supplied to them during the permit or design process.

Manufacturers are able to sell construction products, subject to the Consumer Product Safety Act, for use in Canadian construction without specific import or distribution requirements. However, to be approved for use in a building, the product must comply with all applicable requirements of the building regulation that is in force in that jurisdiction. Some examples of local building regulations are: the provincial building code enacted by law in the province, or the National Building Code of Canada when applicable.

The party seeking approval is responsible for demonstrating compliance to the AHJ, following the appropriate code-prescribed pathway.

Compliance pathways

According to the national and provincial building codes in Canada, there are two paths to achieving code compliance:

  • as an acceptable solution, meeting all provisions of the applicable acceptable solution in Division B of the building 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 products fall within the scope of a code-referenced standard (for example, CAN/ULC-S701.1 for extruded and expanded polystyrene insulation), 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. For acceptable solutions, compliance is typically demonstrated via technical data sheets, test reports, code evaluations or product certifications (at the discretion of the AHJ).

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, compliance is established as an alternative solution.

Alternative solutions typically require the submission of technical evidence as the basis for acceptance of the product. An AHJ may accept or reject the submission at its discretion. Typically, AHJs may require more or less support for their approvals based on the level of risk they feel is associated with the product.

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, which depends on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • the building type
  • the occupancy type 
  • the product
  • the intended function
  • the intended use (location) in the building
  • the life safety risk

One of the largest factors in demonstrating compliance is the compliance pathway which can determine how simple or complex the evidence for code compliance needs to be:

Acceptable solutions

Sometimes these 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:

  • technical literature
  • test reports
  • product certification
  • CCMC code compliance assessments

The list above provides several different sources of code compliance evidence, from the least independent source (manufacturer's literature) to the most independent (Canadian government opinion). The level of independence required by the AHJ will typically depend on the risk level associated with the product, at the discretion of the AHJ.

Alternative solutions

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 solutions, 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; for example, test data)
  • a design professionals opinion (the design professional takes responsibility for the compliance)
  • a CCMC code compliance assessment

The AHJ reviews the submission and determines if 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 code compliance assessments and provide a product assessment service at the national level. CCMC product assessments are recognized by AHJs across Canada and are generally accepted 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).

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. You can do this 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 Building Code of Canada as an organization that provides code compliance assessments and is recognized by every province and territory across Canada.

In most cases, the CCMC is a one-stop shop for the technical evidence you need to support acceptance of your product in nearly every jurisdiction in Canada.

 

If you have questions about the code compliance process in Canada, a CCMC client care officer will be happy to answer your questions.