How New Ontario Building Codes Affect Door Decisions

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Condos in Ontario are set to get bigger and more expensive when the province introduces new building codes that will force contractors to build to accommodate people with disabilities.

The new codes, come into effect Jan. 1, 2015 and will require new condo and apartment buildings, community centres, churches and commercial buildings to include things like wider doors, elevators, power doors and visual smoke alarms.

They are features that will make carbon footprints bigger and drive up the prices in Ontario’s condo market, according to builders. The government counters those costs are limited and allow people to participate in their communities.

“When you increase the square footage within a building, you increase its footprint outside and you increase the cost and you may not be able to build the building,” President of the Ontario Contractor’s Association Clive Thurston said Thursday.

“There is no question prices are going to go up. The biggest challenge will come in designing these buildings to fit the footprint, so we are going to increase our carbon footprint for sure.”

Thurston used to sit on a building advisory committee that worked with the province to develop “reasonable” changes to Ontario building codes, but the meetings dried up over the past two years and the province went ahead with its own changes.

“A lot of the ideas had been developed by people who have no conception of what it takes to build a building without any consideration to anything else,” added Thurston.

Under the new rules, new condos, apartment buildings, large commercial buildings and residential buildings more than three stories in height will have to increase door widths to allow for barrier-free passage, provide access to all floors via an elevator and must increase the number of suites from 10 to 15 per cent that must be designed with basic accessibility features – including wider doorways and hallways in bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens. There are dozens of other changes to Ontario building codes.

One of Ottawa’s leading condo builders the Minto Group said they support the new measures, as it will ensure that builders consider the needs of those with disabilities, but they wouldn’t comment on how the changes would affect the market or condo prices.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the added cost for large-scale developers to implement the changes into their designs would be “limited,” based on a recent costing study.

“The findings indicated that for the large buildings which incorporate the majority of the changes, would experience very limited increases in construction costs,” said ministry media relations manager Charlene Millett. Statistics Canada numbers show that close to 16 per cent of Ontario’s population has some form of a disability and the number is expected to rise with the aging population.

“The more accessible buildings are for people with disabilities, the greater their ability to live, work and participate fully in the life of their communities,” added Millett.

But for Mapleridge Homes owner Matt Smith, every extra dollar adds up over time, especially for multi-unit buildings.

“Like a lot of things in construction, not costs are astronomical, but when you start adding them all up together, it becomes and expense on whoever owns the property,” said Smith.

“For builders, they have got to hope they can sell it for more, if not, they make less.”

The changes won’t affect buildings already built or those under construction, but contractors doing extensive renovations will have to adhere to the new codes.

With the exception of adding visual fire alarms, houses, including semi-detached houses, townhouses, and duplexes are exempt from the new codes.