by SUSAN MANN
Farmers in Ontario are also wondering if updated codes may increase their building costs for farm structures. “There’s good and bad any time you go down this road,” says Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Geri Kamenz.
Farmers have mixed feelings, agrees Will Teron, past president of the Canadian Farm Builders Association and senior structural engineer with Tacoma Engineers Inc. based in Guelph. Some are relieved the government has held off from interfering once again and creating more headaches. Other farmers say they have substantial operations and they’re making major investments. They want buildings constructed to new, current standards.
The national codes are all written and updated by an arm of the National Research Council – the Canadian Commission on Buildings and Fire Codes. The provinces, which are in charge of legislating and enforcing building code, often use the national codes as guidelines.
While the Commission released updates on other aspects of the national code, provisions for farm buildings weren’t included. For now farm builders are using the 1995 farm building code.
That doesn’t cause difficulties for most structures, Teron says. But if the farm building code isn’t updated now by the next time the model national building code is released the farm one will be 20 years out of date.
As it stands, all the references to standards and climatic data in the code for farm buildings “are out of date,” he explains. Moreover, farm buildings have become larger and the current code “doesn’t reflect current building practices.” There are safety concerns as well: updated codes could introduce measures to mitigate fires in large livestock barn buildings, although “it wouldn’t stop them from starting,” he says.
The farm builders association sent a letter in November, 2007 to the Commission asking for the farm building code to be update.
OMAFRA engineer John Johnson agrees the code needs updating. “Some of the things that the building code covers have changed.”
He says the ministry supports the farm builders’ request for a code update. OMAFRA has also encouraged the province’s municipal affairs ministry to add its support. As well, in 2005 the municipal affairs ministry told the Commission in a letter that one of its priorities is that the farm building code be updated.
The Commission is considering the request says its secretary, Anne Gribbon, who adds that it needs to hear from the provinces whether they’re interested in having the farm building code updated.
The provinces know the Commission is looking for comments but so far others haven’t responded. According to a spokesperson at the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, less than 50 per cent of the provinces would adopt the national farm building code.
Gribbon says once the updating process begins, it could take up to four years because it has to be restructured in an objective-based format similar to the building, fire and plumbing codes. BF