What is the Vancouver Building By-Law or VBBL? The Vancouver Charter, S.B.C. 1953, c. 55 enables the City of Vancouver to adopt bylaws that regulate the design and construction of buildings such that they can be tailored to suit the needs and interests of the city, particularly with respect to building safety. The bylaw not only regulates design and construction, but also provides the authority to enforce these requirements. The ability to regulate building at the civic level is unique in BC and allows the City of Vancouver to be a leader in many areas of building regulations, including accessibility, energy use and artist live/work studios. The by-law has changed over time, but each iteration is based on the BC Building Code (BCBC) with revisions and modifications specific to Vancouver.

Homeowners and contracting companies should be aware of substantive changes in the 2019 Building By-Law from the 2018 BC Building Code that have just been enacted. We’ve included them below:

Delivery of Legal Orders Minor changes related to the mechanisms of the delivery of a legal order have been revised as recommended by legal services to reduce the City risk exposure.
Work without Permit (Minimum & Maximum Penalties) To promote compliance with safety & administrative requirements, penalties have been revised. The minimum & maximum fines to be raised $500 and $20,000 respectively as contractual penalties often exceed the fines or penalties that can be assessed under the Building By-law.
Vestibule Requirements Exclude the vestibule requirement from within the newest NECB energy performance standard so as to not conflict with the harmonization of the existing vestibule requirement within the building by-law.
Add an appendix note to clarify maximum depth for vestibules, and the process in place for determining possible relaxations to the requirement.
Recognizing Passive House Officially recognizing Passive House within the Building By-law making things much easier for applicants and permit reviews.
Exterior Space Heating Restrictions & Allowances To alleviate one of the more misunderstood areas, the proposed clarification confirms that balconies are exterior areas and are to be unconditioned in accordance with Planning’s long-time intention.
For food & beverage establishments the proposed options are alternative paths to plumbed and portable fossil-fuel exterior heating systems.
Balcony Gas Corrections To balance fire safety with cultural norms, proposed language allows gas connections to serve open balconies of One & Two Family Dwellings but not balconies of other archetypes, such as residential towers.
Consolidate 1&2 Family Housing Renovation Requirements Consolidate renovation requirements for 1- & 2-family dwellings into a single section for clarity and easy-of-use.
Energy Upgrade triggers based on cost of construction will be revised upwards and consolidated to reduce the impact on builders and simplify the application.
Update the Upgrade Trigger Mechanism Reclassify the relocation of demising walls from a Major Renovation status to a Minor Renovation status, incurring far less onerous upgrade requirements.
Update the structural ‘S3’ upgrade level to add a performance based structural improvement option to the prescriptive option.
Add energy and emissions upgrade options to encourage existing exterior space heating systems to become more efficient and less detrimental to the environment.
Expand Alternative Acceptable Solutions Create a new path to allow existing stairs in a building to be retained with limited life safety improvements.
Create an additional new pathway to assist designers & builders to retain existing windows which vary slightly from the original configuration.
Harmonize Renovation Language Provide renovation language to support the newest NECB energy standard and ZEBP compliance pathway, where presently none exists, and in such a way as to be consistent with the renovation language already in place and in use by industry and enforced by the City since January 2015.
Construction on Sloped Sites Add new option to consider the height of physically separated components of a building separately.
Add new alternative option to high building measures in sloped sites where buildings are nominally six storeys but exceed 18 m in height.
Fire Containment in Combustible Buildings Add Encapsulated Mass Wood option for the separation of residential components of the building from the remainder of the building.
Increase compartmentation to increase fire and life safety for occupancies other than residential or office use in combustible construction.
Dwelling Unit Egress Add new option to allow two storey suites with a single means of egress if travel distance is limited.
Add new option to allow three storey suites with a single means of egress with direct access to the ground level.
Exit Exposure General use of sprinkler protection for all exit exposure conditions.
Door Jamb Reinforcement (Detached Residential Garages) Expand existing requirements for door jamb reinforcement to detached storage garages to resist break and entry.
Mailbox Construction Requirements (Multi-Family Residential Buildings) New minimum construction requirements for common mailboxes serving 20 residential suites or more to resist theft.
Revised Exterior Lighting Revisions to exterior lighting requirements to facilitate design and enforcement of the exterior lighting of residential buildings.
Revised Exterior Vent Discharge Locations Revisions to exterior appliance vent locations based on recent technical information.
Maintain Accessibility Requirements The existing accessibility requirements will be maintained but will be harmonized with the new BC Building Code voluntary adaptability requirements to increase the degree of uniformity.

These 2019 updates align with the City of Vancouver’s 2020 Action Plan which addresses areas or carbon, waste and ecosystems. The City of Vancouver has implemented the greenest building code in North America and we’re certain to see more updates that reflect this in the future!

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