Ontario Building Code - The Basics

So, here we are. You’ve considered all the choices you have in life, weighed out the pros and cons of each of your dreams. You crossed out "become a movie star", "cure AIDS" and "grow a beard, buy a Harley-Davidson and road trip across Canada" off your list. You’ve always aspired to be in the Architecture and Construction Industry and now you’ve made it. Life is great, until you realize that, unlike school, the sky is NOT the limit and your brilliant designs have to conform to the Building Code.

Now let me share this with you. Remember when your mom said "just study hard at school, and it will prepare you to face every challenges in life"? She lied. NOTHING prepares us for Architecture and Construction, especially the Building Code. We learn by going out there in the field, getting our hands dirty and getting knee-deep in projects until the knowledge is beaten into our heads.

But hey! This blog is here for us to share our knowledge and experience. So I'd like to share with you what I know, and hopefully learn from your comments as well. Here are the 10 basic things you should know about the OBC:

1- You don't have to buy the OBC "Bible" in hardcopy. You can view and/or download it on e-laws website (a Service Ontario resource). Link:

2- The Ontario Building Code is submitted (filed) as an Ontario Regulation, Referenced as "O.Reg.". It typically gets revised after a few years (3-8 years) • O.Reg. 332/12: The 2012 Ontario Building Code - In effect as of January 14, 2014
• O.Reg. 350/06: The 2006 Ontario Building Code- In effect December 31, 2006 until revoked and replaced by the 2012 OBC (O.reg. 332/12)
• O.Reg. 403/97: The 1997 Ontario Building Code- In effect April 6, 1998 until revoked and replaced by the 2006 OBC (O.Reg. 350/06)

*[not so] FUN-FACT: The first Ontario Building Code was issued in 1975 as O.Reg.925/75 (1975 Building Code) effective December 31, 1975.

3- If your building permit was applied before January 14, 2014 the 2006 Building Code is deemed to be in force with respect to construction. After said date, the 2012 Building Code applies.

4- You will often hear the term "Building Code Act 1992". This is different than the building code. The OBC gives you guidelines and standards for specific components of a building. The act, generally, regulates what, how and by whom those requirements are enforced. (According to http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=8391)

5- The OBC set minimum standards for design and construction of buildings in Ontario. That means you don't have to build exactly what the code says, you just have to do it better.

6- The Ontario Building Code, however, does not address construction safety (by the MOL), Electrical Safety (by the ESA), Consumer protection for home buyers (by the TWC), or "Elevators, pressure vessels and fuel safety" (by the TSSA) or conditions of an existing building (if there isn't any plan to alter it)

7- The Ontario Building Code (OBC) Matrix is a standard form in table format to be filled out and used as part of a building permit application. This matrix gives the municipal officials a summary overview of what is being done at the project (area, building/construction type, occupancy, area of openings, sprinklers, etc.). There are 2 main tables in the OBC Matrix, part 3&9 table is for new construction. Renovation of existing buildings use the additional part 11 table. Each municipality may require you to use their own version of the OBC Matrix, but generally they all follow the same format as shown in the link below:

Part 3&9:

Part 11:

8- The OBC has 3 main Division: A, B and C. Division A contains functional statements, objectives and applications of the OBC. Division C contains administrative provisions. Division B contains the most useful information on guidelines, standards and acceptable solutions to construction.

*[not so]Fun-fact: Division B takes up 85% of the OBC. Specifically part 3, 9 and 11 takes up 63% of the entire OBC. So, you decide for yourself what Divisions and Parts are most important in the Code.

9- If a term or phrase is written in italic anywhere in the OBC it means you can find its definition within Division A, Section If it is in "quotation marks", you can find its definition at the beginning of the particular Section it is in.

10- The OBC classify different building and occupancy types into Groups (letters A, B, C...) and Divisions (Numbers 1,2,3...). However, the OBC does not contain clear examples of each Occupancy types. For specific examples of Major Occupancy Classifications, you should refer to the National Building Code, Division B, Appendix A - Link below: