Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative

Canada's climate is changing from historical conditions, reflecting a global increase in temperature over the last century. Impacts of climate change are affecting 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 data. In many cases, this has resulted in assets that have not been designed to withstand the extreme weather events we are currently seeing, let alone the future impacts of climate change. The growing risk of building and infrastructure failure, as well as the associated hazards to the well-being of Canadians, creates an increasing need to adapt and build resilience.

This means enabling our infrastructure and communities to be prepared for climate risks like floods, wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather events, including vulnerable regions like Indigenous, northern, coastal, and remote communities. Considering climate change and extreme events in long-lived infrastructure investments, including retrofits and upgrades, and investing in traditional and natural infrastructure solutions 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, the National Research Council Canada (NRC) is undertaking ground-breaking work to integrate climate resiliency into building and infrastructure design, guides, and codes.

The NRC is 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, bridge design, ocean, coastal and river engineering and fire research.

This initiative is intended to develop capacity in Canada's construction industries to adapt to the increasing demands on our built infrastructure attributed to climate change. It is driving innovation and providing 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 outcome-based programming. The work undertaken by the NRC will contribute to an infrastructure landscape that can keep Canadian communities safer from extreme weather and the effects of climate change.

Projects

The NRC's work plan includes projects divided by climate impacts and by types of assets or systems.

Climatic Data and Loads

In collaboration with partners including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, and RWDI, work is underway to:

  • Update outdated historical climatic design data in Canada's National Building Code (NBC) and CSA's Canadian Highway and Bridge Design Code (CHBDC).
  • Generate projected climatic design data (through changes in values, or introduction of change factors) for a range of future Canadian climate parameters covering over 650 locations across Canada.
  • Develop approaches to consider dynamic climatic loads and their combinations in the design buildings and infrastructure, to advise new provisions for the NBC and CHBDC.

Flooding

  • Develop National requirements for the design of flood-resistant buildings, and propose provisions for potential implementation in the future editions of the National Building Code.
  • Develop guidelines for conducting coastal flood hazard and risk assessments for Canadian buildings and infrastructure.

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fires

  • Develop a Code-ready National Guide for Wildland Urban Interface Design with information to reduce the impact of wildfires on buildings. Update test methods for material and configurations to account for WUI requirements.

Buildings

  • Develop new climatic design data incorporating the impacts of climate change, and to improve our understanding of expected loads on buildings from rain, wind, and snow due to climate change and weather extremes. This research is in direct support of the development of building codes, guidelines and standards.
  • Examine building materials and systems to ensure durability and performance in a changing climate.
  • Develop health and safety protective guidelines to address the effects of overheating in buildings during extreme heat events.
  • Develop new sections for the National Master Specification to enable pre-assessment of buildings for resilience, the identification of priority adaptation retrofits, and commissioning following the implementation of adaptation measures.  

Bridges

  • Update the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code to account for expected loads dues to climate change and extreme weather events.
  • Prepare change provisions for implementation in the 2024 Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CHBDC), with limited provisions for the 2019 Code.
  • Conduct research to understand the impact of climate change and extreme weather events on design, life cycle performance and rehabilitation of bridges – including the impact of climate change on durability of materials, corrosion, fatigue, and water loads and scour.

Water/Wastewater

  • Develop guidelines for adapting existing storm water systems to climate change, to prevent flooding of urban areas, and to prevent discharge of untreated floodwaters.

Roads

  • Develop guidelines for adapting existing roads to climate change, to help guide cost-effective maintenance and rehabilitation decisions.
  • Conduct a field trial of pervious concrete pavement, currently under development by NRC, to reduce rain runoff loads.

Transit

  • Create guidelines for improved track design and monitoring protocols for resilience to the effects of weather including freeze-thaw cycles and extreme heat.
  • Create guidelines for long-term monitoring of transit tunnels, electrical equipment assemblies and other non-track transit infrastructure to increase resilience to extreme weather.

Technical Guide for Adaptable Housing for First Nations

  • Provide funding to undertake the scoping phase of the Technical Guide for First Nations Housing project. It is anticipated that the resulting guide will incorporate knowledge developed by the CRBCPI initiative to enhance resilience to climate change and extreme events in remote communities.

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 is engaged 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.

Progress to Date

NRC is in the third year of the five year initiative. Milestones to date include:

  • A gap analysis of guidance for buildings, bridges and roads, wastewater and storm water systems, and transit in 2016-17 to determine the scope of the project.
  • 4 new Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards complete: basement flood protection (Z800-18), design and construction of bioretention systems (CAN/CSA-W200 and W201) and wastewater treatment plants (S900).
  • Guidelines for flood resilient existing communities been published in collaboration with Intact Centre and SCC, forming the basis for a future standard.
  • The CSA S478 guidelines on durability of buildings have been re-written as a standard to enable regulation. The public review is complete and the Standard be finalized in early 2019.
  • Development of 102 Performance specifications sections for the Canadian National Master Construction Specification;
  • Development and implementation of sustainability and resilience provisions in the 2019 edition of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CSA-S6), the development of full provisions are underway for the 2024 CHBDC;
  • University of Waterloo prototyping a buoyant-foundation and monitoring its winter performance
  • Holding seven cross-country workshops to develop a pathway forward for climate adaptation of the Canadian Electrical Code. Findings from the workshops are now published, and subsequent work has resulted in 50 proposals for change to the CE Code and associated standards.

Collaborations

  • Infrastructure Canada (INFC)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • Health Canada (HC)
  • Via Rail
  • Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA)
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Ottawa
  • Ryerson University
  • University of Toronto
  • Standards Council of Canada
  • CSA Group
  • ULC Standards
  • Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
  • Geological Survey of NWT
  • GNB Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Government of Nunavut
  • ON Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Climate Resilient Tall Buildings
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