The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is contributing to the Government of Canada's climate resilience efforts by providing guidance, tools and standards, which contribute to long-lasting infrastructure and buildings, including retrofits and upgrades, to help communities build resilience, reduce disaster risks and conserve costs over the long term. This will ensure that both new and existing structures continue to support the health, safety and prosperity of Canadians in current and future climates.
In addition, experts from the NRC's Construction Research Centre contribute science-based research to inform the technical committees in the national model code development system, which are responsible for developing the provisions of the National Model Codes. Read more.
Learn more about how the NRC supports the codes development system.
Program research support
Climate Resilient Built Environment Initiative – 2021 to 2026
Since 2021, the Climate Resilient Built Environment Initiative (CRBE) has been undertaking research to support climate resilient buildings and infrastructure. This effort, funded by Infrastructure Canada, builds upon the work completed under the Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative (CRBCPI) . The current initiative is focused on the following research efforts:
- nature-based solutions (such as green roofs on buildings or restoring coastal wetlands) for flooding, erosion and urban heat islands
- climate resilience for major public infrastructure assets such as buildings, roads bridges, dams, water/wastewater and urban transit
- guidance for northern and remote communities
- tools and technologies for public infrastructure management
- science-based knowledge to help inform codes, standards and specifications
Within these broader topics, a few of the specific projects under CRBE include:
- Assessing the gaps for climate change adaptation of dams (published 2023)
- Working with CSA Group to integrate the NRC’s expertise on climate change, resilience, and lifecycle assessment into key standards and codes for bridges, including the upcoming 2025 edition of the CSA S6 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code and the new CSA S7 guideline for the design of pedestrian, cycling, and multiuse bridges (published 2023)
- Undertaking an impact assessment of moving to the structural design of buildings for future snow and wind loads
- Developing guidance documents for the design of flood-resistant buildings (the third publication in this series that looks at flood load combinations)
- Undertaking research to inform potential updates to the CSA S478 Standard on durability in buildings and CSA A440 series on fenestration to account for future climate data
- Working with the Standards Council of Canada to support the development of a standard based on the National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface Fires
- Informing updates to the Canadian National Master Construction Specification based on the results from research conducted under CRBCPI and CRBE
- Expanding and updating web-based tools such as, the Climate-RCI and the hygrothermal database developed by the NRC under CRBCPI, and developing new tools for asphalt and pavement selection
- Developing national guidance for the use of natural features and nature-based solutions to manage coastal flood and erosion risks
- Undertaking field studies on overheating risks for buildings and transit, urban flooding, coastal and riverine flooding, and permafrost thaw
Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative– 2016 to 2021
In response to the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, between 2016 and 2021, the NRC led the Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative (CRBCPI) with funding from Infrastructure Canada. The goal of this initiative was to provide the knowledge needed to integrate climate resilience into building and infrastructure design, guides, standards, and codes.
With this funding, the NRC undertook an analysis of the state-of-practice and knowledge gaps related to resilience of buildings, bridges, roads, water/wastewater and urban transit to climate change and extreme events.
Based on this analysis, the NRC launched a number of projects related to buildings and infrastructure, developed new guidance, and collaborated with Canadian standards development organizations to update key standards. This resulted in a suite of publications, including the following:
- Future climatic data for the design of buildings and bridges that considers climate change and can also be accessed through the Design Value Explorer tool (published in 2020)
- Technical Guide for Northern Housing, led by the First Nations National Building Officers Association with support from the NRC (published in 2022)
- Guidance for preventing overheating of buildings (published in 2021)
- National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires for Canada (published in 2021)
- Impact assessment of the costs-benefits of applying the WUI Guide across Canada (published in 2021)
- CSA A123.26 Standard for climate resilience of low slope membrane roofing systems based on NRC research (published in 2021)
- Climate-RCI tool for climate resilient design of roofs
- Hygrothermal database of building materials for modelling and testing of the 34 most commonly used building materials in Canada under current and future climatic conditions
- Guide for Design of Flood-Resistant Buildings (new and existing) (published in 2021)
- Practical guidance for private-side drainage systems to reduce basement flood risk (published in 2021)
- Proposed 50 changes to the Canadian Electrical Code to increase resiliency and reliability of electricity in the context of climate change and extreme weather events; many of these changes have been incorporated into the 2021 edition of the Code
- Coastal flood risk assessment guidelines for building and infrastructure design (published in 2020)
- CSA S6 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code updated to include provisions related to climate change, sustainability and resilience and fully updated historical data, informed by NRC experts (published in 2019)
- CSA S478 Standard on durability in buildings converted from a guideline to a standard (published in 2019) informed by NRC experts
- CSA A440 series on fenestration (windows) updated to introduce climate change resilience and informed by NRC experts (published in 2019)
- CSA Z800 Guideline on basement flood protection and risk reduction and informed by NRC experts (published in 2018)
- CSA S900.1 Standard on climate change adaptation for wastewater treatment plants (published in 2018)
- Two standards on the design and construction of bioretention systems (CSA W200 Design of bioretention systems and CSA W201 Construction of bioretention systems, published in 2018)
- Updates to a suite of existing standards published by UL Standards & Engagement on backwater valves, exterior insultation and finish systems, methods for fire testing of building materials, fuel storage tanks, and fuel storage tank gauges and leak detection
Climate resiliency research and the National Model Codes
The NRC's research, both under CRBCPI and other programs led by the Construction Research Centre, also contributed to informing the former Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (now the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes) technical committees in their work to develop updated provisions in published editions of the National Model Codes. These updates include:
The 2020 edition of the National Model Codes:
- Update to the historic wind design data to replace data from 2010
- New provisions for snow loading of roofs
- Updates to suites of standards referenced in the National Building Code of Canada including: fenestration, exterior insulation finish systems, fire tests, air barriers and asphalt shingles
- Update to explanatory material on durability, including a reference to CSA S478, "Durability in buildings," which was converted to a standard from a guideline
- Provisions enabling construction of tall wooden buildings in Canada
The 2015 edition of the National Model Codes:
- Improved design to resist wind failure of commercial roofing
- Improved design to resist moisture failure of exterior facades
- Provisions enabling construction of mid-rise wooden buildings in Canada
The codes development system is currently working on potential future technical updates to the national model codes, including areas related to overheating, and future climatic data. The role of the codes in climate resilience in other areas is also being discussed by the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes (CBHCC) as part of ongoing policy work.
Global Resiliency Dialogue
The NRC has also been collaborating as part of the Global Resiliency Dialogue to develop the Global Building Resilience Guidelines (2022) (PDF, 1.8 MB), a document that provides a framework for jurisdictions around the world to consider as they work to effectively integrate future‑focused climate science into building codes and standards.
As part of these efforts, the NRC conducted a survey with Canadian building code stakeholders (PDF, 1.2 MB) to help identify ongoing efforts and needs in regards to climate adaptation and resilience for buildings. The results informed the Delivering Climate Responsive Resilient Building Codes and Standards report (PDF, 3.4 MB), published by the Global Resiliency Dialogue, which presented findings from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
The NRC has numerous research facilities and teams examining the predicted impacts of climate change and extreme weather on buildings. Examples include:
- Dynamic Roofing Facility – a chamber that simulates the effects of wind on actual roofing systems and installations (including commercial membrane roofing, green roofs, and photo voltaic (PV) module connections)
- Storm water simulator to measure the ability of roofing assemblies (such as green roofs) to retain water and mitigate urban flooding
- Dynamic Wall Testing Facility – to examine the ability of wall assemblies to resist wind-driven rain
- Fire safety testing facility to assess the wildfire ignition potential of materials and structures, this facility includes an NRC ember generator.
- Field trials in Tuktoyaktuk to examine techniques for mitigating permafrost thaw
Modeling capabilities including:
- Whole building modeling to understand the best strategies for preventing indoor overheating during heat waves
- Urban heat island modeling for future climates and the impact of mitigation methods
- Hygrothermal (heat and moisture) modeling of building materials – to assess ability to wet and dry out in different climates
- Modeling of wildfire embers, radiation, flame, smoke
- Mapping of wildland urban interface hazards including the anticipated impacts of climate change
Other NRC facilities are examining climate impacts on other types of infrastructure.
- The NRC's Ocean Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre is using wave basins and modelling to examine the performance of dams in a changing climate and the use of nature-based solutions to mitigate coastal erosion and coastal flooding.
- The NRC's Aerospace Research Centre has wind tunnels, where researchers have been examining the performance of bridge stay cables in different climate conditions, including ice.
- The NRC's Construction Research Centre has a coupled corrosion lab, where researchers have been examining the impacts of corrosion on the durability of concrete bridge components and effective mitigation/rehabilitation techniques.
Construction innovation stories
- Building climate resilience into construction - National Research Council Canada
- Integrating climate resilience into building and design guides, standards and codes through the Climate Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (CRBCPI) Initiative
- New National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface Fires
- Future climate data for buildings and infrastructure design now includes the impacts of climate change
- International building code development/research organizations agree to cooperate on enhancing resilience through codes
- Enabling innovative technologies for climate resilient buildings and infrastructure
- Improving resilience to flooding
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