Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative
Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative
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On this page
- About the Initiative
- Codes and guide development
- Flooding-related activities
The impacts of climate change affect many aspects of daily life. Canada's buildings and public infrastructure systems (such as bridges, roads, water and wastewater systems, energy transmission and transit) are guided by codes and standards that have largely been developed based on historical climate data. In many cases, this has resulted in assets that have not been designed to withstand the extreme weather events we are currently experiencing, let alone the enduring impacts of climate change. The growing risk of building and infrastructure failure, as well as the associated hazards to the well-being of Canadians, create an increasing need to adapt and build resilience.
Our infrastructure and communities must be better prepared for climate invoked risks including floods, wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events, especially in Indigenous, northern, coastal, and remote communities. Investing in traditional and natural infrastructure solutions, including retrofits and upgrades, can help communities build resilience, reduce disaster risks, and save costs over the long term.
About the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative
With $42.5 million in financial support from Infrastructure Canada, and in support of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, from 2016 to 2021, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) undertook ground-breaking work to integrate climate resilience into building and infrastructure design, guides, and codes.
The NRC was uniquely positioned to undertake this forward-looking project. Leveraging internationally recognized research capabilities and facilities, the NRC has expertise in infrastructure and building science. On site, it can test and monitor a wide array of infrastructure systems, including wastewater systems, building façade and roof resiliency, and bridge design. Additionally, the NRC is able to conduct ocean coastal and river engineering and fire research.
This five-year initiative intended to develop capacity in Canada's construction industries to adapt to the increasing demands on our built infrastructure attributed to climate change. It has driven innovation and provided partners with the science-based knowledge and tools they need to make sound decisions about how to design, operate, and maintain their infrastructure assets. This supports Infrastructure Canada's commitment to results-driven policy and programs. The work undertaken by the NRC has contributed to an infrastructure landscape that will keep Canadian communities safer from extreme weather and the effects of climate change.
The five-year Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative (CRBCPI) was concluded in March 2021. It is being succeeded by phase 2 of the initiative which will build on results of the CRBCPI.
The NRC's work plan included projects divided by climate impacts and by types of assets or systems. Important outputs and deliverables from 2016 to 2021 are listed below:
Climatic Data and Loads
In collaboration with partners including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, and the engineering firm Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc. (RWDI ), the CRBCPI has:
Developed future-looking climate data, including temperature, precipitation and wind data, based on over 660 locations across Canada which will be used by technical committees when updating building and infrastructure codes and standards. This data is anticipated to be implemented in the 2025 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CHBDC), and will be submitted for consideration by the committees of National Building Code of Canada (NBC) for its 2025 edition.
Canadian Electrical Code
Proposed fifty changes to the Canadian Electrical Code to increase resiliency and reliability of electricity in the context of climate change and extreme weather events.
- Developed standalone national guidelines with provisions for the design of buildings to address natural hazards, including flooding. Code change requests that are partially based on these guidelines will be submitted for consideration in future editions of the National Building Code of Canada (NBC). The previous edition, NBC 2020, did not address flooding.
- According to an economic assessment by SPA Risk and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, implementation of flood resilience guidelines will have an 11:1 benefit-cost ratio and will help Canada avoid $2.7 billion in losses annually.
- Developed best practices for flood risk reduction in residential communities: "Weathering the Storm", in conjunction with the Intact Centre and the Standards Council of Canada.
- Developed national guidelines for urban storm drainage to evaluate life cycle costs – including financial, social, legal and environmental implications – and the long-term benefits of flood-risk-reduction infrastructure.
- Created two new standards related to the Construction of Bioretention Systems. Canadian Standards Association (CSA) (W200 and W201) outline requirements and recommendations for low impact development measures that will minimize the risk of community flooding and surface water degradation caused by changes in rainfall patterns.
- Completed Coastal Flood Risk Assessment Guidelines for Building and Infrastructure Design, which inform designs of buildings and infrastructure and other interested parties on best practices for conducting coastal flood risk assessments (CFRAs).
- Developed the new CSA Z800, Guideline on basement flood protection and risk reduction, which covers measures to reduce the risks of basement flooding, and to mitigate the adverse effects on property, public safety, and public health in case of a flood event. It covers existing, new, rebuilt, and renovated houses in rural and urban settings. To complement this work, NRC in partnership with ICLR developed a practical guidance document entitled Practical Guidance for Private-Side Drainage Systems to Reduce Basement Flood Risk. This document provides guidance on foundation drainage systems, sump pump systems, backwater protection for foundation drainage systems, and private-side sanitary sewer connections (also referred to as “sanitary building sewers”).
- Partnered with academic institutions to develop technology and research methods to increase infrastructure resilience to extreme weather.
- Developed guidance for buildings with buoyant foundations that can help communities at high risk of flooding based on ongoing research at the University of Waterloo.
- For a more detailed overview of ongoing work on flooding, see below.
Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fires
- Released a National guide for wildland-urban-interface (WUI) fires. The guide is intended to mitigate the growing risk of damage and loss due to WUI fires by improving the resilience of buildings, infrastructure and communities to wildfires. Drawing on recent wildfire research, existing codes, standards and guidelines, and insights gained from international experts, the guide provides support for diminishing the risk in the WUI areas of Canada, including information on: hazard and exposure assessment; vegetation management and construction measures; community planning and resources; and emergency planning and outreach.
- While the, NBC does not currently include model provisions related to wildfire, code change requests that are partially based on these guides will be submitted to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes for consideration in future editions of the NBC.
- A detailed cost-benefit analysis of the National guide for wildland-urban-interface design conducted by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction showed that national adoption of this guideline is predicted to save up to 4:1 – avoiding $500 billion in future losses at a cost of $125 billion, creating 20,000 long-term jobs, saving 2,300 lives, and avoiding 17,000 nonfatal injuries and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Rewrote the CSA Group's Guideline on Durability of Building (CSA S478) – previously a guideline – as a standard (Durability in buildings), which sets forth minimum requirements to assist designers in creating durable buildings.
- Developed a new standard with the CSA Group on Performance Requirements for Climate Resilience of Low Slope Membrane Roofing Systems (CSA 123.26) in order to address wind-related climate risk associated with this roof type.
- Developing guidance for new and existing buildings to ensure safe indoor conditions during heat waves based on ongoing research in collaboration with Concordia University.
- Published a new standard: High exposure fenestration installation (CSA A440.6 )
- Updated a suite of Canadian Fenestration Standards (CAN/CSA A440) (CSA A440.2 , CSA A440.4 , CSA A440S1) to include climate change considerations in the design of windows and doors.
- Updated CSA S6:19 the 2019 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CHBDC), which features provisions related to climate change, sustainability and resilience and fully updated historical data.
- In Ontario alone, the new code has the potential to influence 175 projects per year. The previous edition of the CHBDC was based in part on 1970s climate data.
- Continuing to improve guidelines for bridge durability based on results from the NRC's world-leading wind tunnel facility where they are testing the impact of climate change and extreme weather (including ice, wind and rain) on bridge cables.
- Developing guidance for climate adaptation of existing bridges based on ongoing research in collaboration with the University of Ottawa, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.
- Developed a new standard in collaboration with the CSA Group S900.1 on Climate Change Adaptation for Wastewater Treatment Plants to increase the resiliency of water treatment plants and improve reliability of services during extreme weather events.
- Currently developing guidance to improve climate resilience of existing roads and to guide cost-effective maintenance and rehabilitation decisions.
- Currently conducting a field trial of pervious concrete pavement as a strategy for reducing rain runoff loads.
- Conducted research and currently developing guidance pertaining to transit systems, where few standards currently exist. To enable climate change adaptation of transit systems, subway tunnels and trains in Toronto have been equipped with instrumentation that collects data. The Toronto Metro subway system is now the most instrumented system in the world and is being used to conduct research and develop guidance on overheating in public transit.
- Based on the CRBCPI phase 1, developing guidelines to improve safety and passenger comfort of rail travel in cold weather based on research of rail stress dynamics and freezing and thawing cycles being completed at the Via Rail Test Site.
Technical guide for adaptable housing for First Nations
- Currently developing technical guidance for adaptable housing for remote/Indigenous communities in collaboration with the First Nations Building Officers Association (FNBOA).
Codes and guide development
In addition to the work supporting codes provisions and guidelines outlined above, the Initiative has established an oversight committee of federal departments to ensure the results are relevant, and complement related endeavours. The committee discusses the emerging results, provides direction and serves to exchange and make links to federal departments' priorities related to the Initiative, and the work of projects' technical committees.
Where available, the project engages with existing committees and governance structures to deliver the project outcomes. Technical committees have been established to guide research and the development of guidelines in the areas of climatic data and loads, flood-resistant buildings, coastal flood risk assessment, wildland-urban interface design, and roof systems and building materials.
Over 150 collaborators contributed to the success of CRBCPI including provincial, territorial and municipal government departments; national and international experts. From engineering consulting firms, industry, academia, non-profit organizations, and the climate science community.
Flooding-related activities under the CRBCPI
Climatic Design Data
- CRBCPI is generating future climatic design data incorporating the effects of climate change for potential use by the Building Code and Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CHBDC).
- Climatic design data including precipitation, temperature and wind are being generated for different global warming scenarios. Flooding-related data includes Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) curves used in the design of stormwater and flooding infrastructure, Annual Maximum one-day rain and maximum 15-min rain used in the design of roof drainage.
Guidance and standards
Updates to existing codes and standards and creation of new standards:
- CRBCPI has triggered a discussion by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes on the role of the National Building Code in addressing flooding, and is preparing code change requests related to flooding for consideration (see Guidelines for Flood-Resistant Buildings below).
- 50 proposals for changes to the Canadian Electrical Code to increase resilience to climate change and extreme weather events were developed with CSA, including 29 proposals related to flooding. The proposals for change have been submitted to the CEC committees for their consideration.
- A new standard was developed in collaboration with CSA on the Climate Change Adaptation for Wastewater Treatment Plants (S900.1).
- Two new standards related to the Construction of Bioretention Systems (W200 and W201) were developed with CSA. These new standards minimize the risk of community flooding and surface water degradation from changes in rainfall patterns and extreme rainfall due to climate change.
- The ULC Standard relating to powered backwater valves was updated to address issues related to power loss and backup power supply and to address the increased risk and frequency of flooding.
- Updated two suites of standards related to fuel storage tanks, both above ground and below ground, to increase resilience to flooding and prevent tank damage and pollutant spills in flooded areas.
Developing new Guidance:
- Best practices for flood risk reduction in existing residential communities "Weathering the Storm" was developed in conjunction with Intact Centre and Standards Council of Canada (SCC). SCC is now funding the development of a CSA standard based on this document.
- A new CSA Z800 Guideline on basement flood protection and risk reduction was developed. To complement this work, NRC in partnership with ICLR developed a practical guidance document entitled "Practical Guidance for Private-Side Drainage Systems to Reduce Basement Flood Risk".
- Completed Coastal Flood Risk Assessment Guidelines for Building and Infrastructure Design. These guidelines are intended to inform designs of buildings and infrastructure and other interested parties on best practices for conducting coastal flood risk assessments (CFRAs). They apply to Canada's marine coasts (Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific) and the Great Lakes.
- A contract is in place with Coulbourne Consulting to develop structural provisions for the design of new buildings to flood-related loads, and guidance to improve the flood resistance of existing buildings. The Coulbourne Consulting team had a lead role in developing similar guidance for the US including ASCE-7 (Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and other Structures) and ASCE-24 (Flood-Resistant Design and Construction). A Technical Committee and a Steering Committee on flood-resistant buildings have been established to oversee the development of these guidelines. Flooding data is being gathered for a number of locations in Canada to support this effort.
- Two national workshops were held in 2018 to identify priorities for urban storm drainage. As a result, comprehensive national guidelines are now being developed on how to evaluate life-cycle costs and long-term benefits of flood-risk-reduction infrastructure, including financial (direct and indirect), social, legal and environmental implications, and considering uncertain future climate.
- NRC is working in partnership with the University of Ottawa to undertake Research and development of guidance for the design of bridge piers to resist the impacts of river ice, flooding loads, and debris.
- The University of Waterloo is developing guidelines for the design of buoyant foundations. One prototype foundation has been built and the durability of different technologies under winter conditions was explored. An existing building will be retrofit with a buoyant foundation this spring.
Links to related work
- NRC chaired the committee that developed the CSA standard for Flood Resilient Design of New Residential Communities (CSA/W204).
- NRC is coordinating with Natural Resources Canada and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada on flood mapping activities as they relate to the development of the guidelines for flood-resistant buildings.
- NRC was involved in work with CSA to publish the report: Nature-Based Solutions for Coastal and Riverine Flood and Erosion Risk Management.
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