Codes, standards and guidance for climate resilience
Codes, standards and guidance for climate resilience
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- Initiatives and programs
- Standards and guidelines
- National Adaptation Strategy and climate resilience
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Climate change and infrastructure
Canada's rapidly changing climate and related hazards are taking a toll on the service and durability of infrastructure and buildings and the safety and security of Canadians and their homes. Increasingly frequent, severe and longer-lasting weather events, along with rising temperatures and sea levels, are causing significant damage to infrastructure and posing a threat to quality of life from coast to coast to coast.
Investment, location, design and operational decisions all provide key opportunities to include considerations related to climate resilience. Climate-informed decisions can lower the total cost of asset ownership, increase service reliability (fewer power outages) and better protect communities. This can be done by helping minimize property damage, maintaining essential services, avoiding premature repair and replacement costs, and preparing communities to recover more quickly from disasters. It is important to take into account the needs of vulnerable communities, use a combination of general and nature-based approaches, and implement strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These actions are crucial for advancing resilience and developing solutions that create important co-benefits.
Buildings and transportation in particular require the most investment to adapt to severe climate change risks such as flooding, erosion, wildfires and thawing permafrost. For example, climate-smart design of buildings and homes must consider future climate variability, such as temperature increases, extreme precipitation and, in some cases, increasing risks from wildfires.
The research is clear, according to the Canadian Climate Institute for every dollar spent on adaptation measures today, $13-$15 will be returned in years ahead in direct and indirect benefits. In the long term, ensuring infrastructure resilience to climate change benefits people and the economy.
A literature review of existing policies, guides, standards, codes and financing programs at the federal level in Canada that inform and incentivize climate-resilient infrastructure is described in this report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Initiatives and programs
Infrastructure Canada is leading Canada's efforts on climate resilience
Since 2016, Infrastructure Canada (INFC) has collaborated with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) to create knowledge and guidance such as: updated and future climate design engineering values, best practices, guidelines, standards, and research to inform updates to codes to support climate change adaptation and enhance the resilience of buildings and infrastructure.
What are climate resilient standards and codes?
Climate-resilient standards: Standards are documents that outline best practice instructions. A standard can help make sure that best practices are followed, people have the proper skills to do their job, or that a built infrastructure will last for a long time. Most available building and infrastructure standards either assume a stable climate or include historical climate data (e.g., the climate of the 1960s). However, the present and future climate is changing. Organizations across the world are currently updating standards or writing new ones that take future climate into consideration.
Climate-informed codes: Codes are commonly mandated through regulations to govern how a piece of infrastructure is developed so that it is safe. In Canada, there are also several National Model Codes, including the National Building Code of Canada. These model codes are reviewed and updated by the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes every five years to ensure they remain relevant and responsive to new technologies, materials, construction practices, research, and the changing needs of Canadian society. For the National Model Codes to become law, they must be adopted or adapted by a province, territory, or other authority having jurisdiction (e.g., a designated municipality). Different climate parameters, or 'climate design values' are used to inform updates to codes.
Climate Resilient Built Environment Initiative
The 2021-2026 Climate Resilient Built Environment (CRBE) Initiative is a 5-year initiative led by the NRC and funded by INFC. The CRBE Initiative provides the knowledge to adapt our public infrastructure where necessary, creates guides, standards, tools and technical solutions for climate resilience, and informs changes to building and infrastructure codes. With funding of $35 million, the initiative highlights the importance of resilience through collaboration across the construction sector, from design and decision-making to construction, operation, maintenance and retrofit. Research efforts are underway on 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 like bridges, dams and urban transit; tailored guidance for northern and remote communities; tools and technologies for public infrastructure management; and science-based knowledge to help inform codes, standards and specifications. The CRBE Initiative builds on the success of the 2016-2021 Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (CRBCPI) Initiative. Learn more about the NRC and their work on climate resilience and important progress made in 2016–2021.
Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program
The 2021-2026 Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program (SSRIP) is a 5-year initiative led by the SCC and funded by INFC. With funding of $11.7 million, SCC is leading the development of new standards and related technical guidance to strengthen communities against climate risks. Standards can define design and operation requirements throughout the lifecycle of infrastructure and buildings, in design, construction, operation, and during rehabilitation or decommissioning. The program focuses on strengthening assets against climate risks (like wildfire and flooding); taking a risk management approach to assets; and helping to address northern-specific issues like permafrost thaw. Program objectives include advancing 36 new standards and technical guidance and promoting uptake of climate-adapted guidance across relevant industries. Learn more about the SCC and their work on climate resilience.
Standards and guidelines
Examples of climate-smart guidance to increase infrastructure and community resilience
The list below provides a few examples of standards and guidance by climate hazard and types of infrastructure assets. A list of resources delivered under CRBCPI, CRBE and SSRIP is also available here.
Types of hazards
This guidance document, prepared for the NRC by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, provides guidance, recommendations and the state of best practice for drainage systems to reduce basement flood risk for new and existing residential buildings. The measures in this guide are meant to complement the measures outlined in the CSA Group's standard, CSA Z800-18 Guideline on Basement Flood Protection and Risk Reduction.
This guideline, prepared by the NRC, provides a framework to evaluate overheating risk in buildings, and to assess measures to reduce overheating risk in existing, retrofitted, new and net-zero energy residential buildings. The guideline includes an application of this framework to Ottawa, Ontario using current local climate and future climate projections.
Guidance: National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires, 2021
This guide, prepared by the NRC, aims to reduce the increasing danger of damage and loss caused by wildfires in areas where communities and nature meet (known as "wildland-urban interface fires"). It draws from recent research and expert knowledge on wildfires and existing standards and guidelines. Following this guide nationally is estimated to avoid $470 billion in future losses at a cost of $125 billion.
Guidance: CSA Plus 4011 Infrastructure in Permafrost: A Guideline for Climate Change Adaptation, 2019
This updated technical guide, funded by the SCC, offers new information on climate change predictions specific to Northern Canada. It provides the latest trends in temperature and precipitation, climate projections and updated data on ground temperature trends in permafrost throughout the region.
Types of assets
Standard: CSA A123.26:21 Performance Requirements for Climate Resilience of Low Slope Membrane Roofing Systems, 2021
This National Standard of Canada was published by CSA Group, with support including research outputs from the NRC. Low slope roofs are commonly used for industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. The standard outlines performance requirements for low slope roofs based on climate severity and resilience requirements, and is intended for use by building designers, owners, building officials, product manufacturers and installers.
Standard: CSA S520 High Wind Safety for Low-rise Residential and Small Buildings, 2022
This National Standard of Canada, funded by SCC, contains best practice guidance for the design and construction of low-rise, wood-frame buildings to withstand high winds corresponding to EF-2 tornado-level wind speeds.
Standard: CSA W210 Prioritization of Flood Risk in Existing Communities, 2021
This standard, funded by SCC, provides a framework to help existing communities across Canada identify flood risks and cost-effective risk reduction measures. The standard includes climate change considerations and provides best practices to prioritizing flood resilience works.
Standard: CSA S900.1:18 Climate Change Adaptation for Wastewater Treatment Plants, 2018
This National Standard of Canada was published by CSA Group, with research support from the NRC. The standard addresses considerations for adapting wastewater treatment plants to a changing climate by reviewing climate, regulatory, risk, design, construction, and operations and maintenance aspects. It is intended for use by owners of wastewater treatment plants and applies to existing, new or retrofit/upgrade projects.
Code: CSA S6:19 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, 2019
This code was published by CSA Group and applies to the design, evaluation, and structural rehabilitation design of fixed and movable highway bridges in Canada. The NRC's research informed and supported updates, notably on climate data, sustainability considerations, and climate change and exposure conditions.
The NRC has also developed an assessment of how climatic design data relevant to users of the code might change as the climate continues to warm.
Standard/ Guidance: New standards and technical guides on climate adaptation strategies (under development by the SCC)
Two National Standards of Canada are under development based on ISO 14090:2019 and ISO 14091:2021 to help Canadian organizations plan and implement climate adaptation strategies. Accompanying technical guides will be developed for the transportation sector, as well as to support asset management processes.
Design Value Explorer
The Design Value Explorer is a web-based, technical tool for accessing 19 climatic design values based on observed data and projections of how they may change in the future. This tool allows professionals to examine how climate change will influence building and bridge designs under different potential future scenarios. It results from collaborative efforts by INFC, the NRC, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC).
National Adaptation Strategy and climate resilience
Role of climate resilient infrastructure to meet Canada's adaptation objectives
These INFC-led initiatives will assist in the implementation of the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), which is the first strategy in Canada that outlines a collective approach towards building a country that is better equipped to handle the impacts of climate change. Through the NAS, an additional $59.6 million over five years in funding was announced, starting in 2023-2024, to accelerate the ongoing efforts of INFC, the NRC, and the SCC.
INFC plays a key role in fostering resilience to climate-related challenges and is responsible for delivering on the following commitments:
- Starting in 2024, resilience to climate change impacts is factored into all new federal infrastructure funding programs. This means considering and addressing the impacts of climate change in the planning and design of future infrastructure projects.
- By 2026, additional climate change resiliency considerations are incorporated into 3 Canadian Codes (National Building Code, Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, and Canadian Electrical Code).
- By 2030, 80% of public and municipal organizations have factored climate change adaptation into their decision-making processes.
- By 2030, robust guidance, codes and standards covering the top climate change risks for key public infrastructure systems are available to be adopted by all infrastructure decision-makers. These resources can be adopted by all decision-makers involved in infrastructure development.
Build climate smart
Guidance in the form of standards, guidelines and tools has been developed by the NRC and SCC. The most up to date standards and guidelines have been organized by Asset Type and by Hazard Type for ease of use. New standards, guidelines and tools will be added as they become available.
- Government of Canada announces funds for climate resilient infrastructure initiatives [June 28, 2022]
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