They don’t build houses like they used to

How many of you live in a home built before May 1, 2013? Sorry to be the one to tell you, but your home is not built to the current National Building Code of Canada. May 1, 2013 is the date that Saskatchewan adopted the latest building code – the 2010 National Building Code (NBC). Prior to that, homes were built to the 2005 NBC standard.

If your home was built to the 2005 standard, that does not mean it is unsafe or poorly built; it was built to the standards of the time. The NBC continues to evolve and improve. So when someone says “they don’t build them like they use to,” they are actually right. That’s because they build them better. Continuous improvements to the building code are one of the reasons for this.

For the most part, building codes are in place to ensure the safety and general welfare of the building’s occupants. They establish predictable and consistent standards for the quality and durability of construction and construction materials. Each province is responsible for its own building code, act and regulations, and the municipal government is responsible for building code enforcement.

Building codes have been with us for a very long time. Measures to ensure public safety and quality due to faulty building practices date back almost 4,000 years. King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) of Babylonia published what is believed to be the first building code book. Two hundred and eighty-two codes were first created in Hammurabi’s code of law, which represented, in part, rules for construction.

In ancient Babylonia, failure to meet the building code was very harsh. If you constructed a building or home for someone and that building failed for some reason resulting in the death of the owner, the builder’s penalty was also death. If the owner’s son was killed, so would be the builder’s son, the owner’s slave, the builder’s slave, and so on. This was an interesting way to provide retribution, compliance and remedy. In our time, the City of Regina reviews the building’s construction plans and then approves those plans once they have met all the code and regulation requirements. The city also conducts building inspections to verify that the building code and regulation requirements have been met.

The NBC is not always crystal clear and therefore has room for interpretation. Even though our industry does not always completely agree with the interpretation the local inspectors may have of the NBC, for the most part, we do think that the City of Regina building inspectors do a good job of ensuring that the NBC is adhered to. If they see a concern, they work with the builder or contractor to get the issue resolved. Ensuring we are building safe homes that will perform as they should over the long term is important to homeowners and to the success of the residential building industry. New home buyers must have confidence that the new homes they purchase are built really well; and, they are.

Building a new home is complicated.

There are a lot of codes, standards and processes to follow for that new home to be built correctly. That is why it is important that your new home is built by an experienced professional. For starters, an experienced professional knows and understands the municipal regulations and National Building Code, and has the know-how to ensure they are adhered to, and will not avoid taking out the correct permits or avoid the proper inspections.

However, because building a new home is complicated, sometimes things can go wrong. In the occasion that something significant does occur, it is important to not only hold the builder or contractor accountable, but your municipality should be held accountable as well, as they are the organization responsible for ensuring that all newly constructed homes meet the building code standards.

An additional safe guard is to ensure that your newly built home is covered by a third party new home warranty, which provides consumer protection. As a minimum, a new home warranty generally includes deposit insurance and protection against defects in work and materials as well as major structural defects. Additional coverage may include defects in your home’s mechanical systems or building envelope. You may also be able to upgrade a “basic package” and get extended coverage. We believe in third-party, newhome warranty so strongly, that I would never consider building a new home by any builder, no matter how good a recommendation they were given or whatever commitments they claim, if they were not a member of a recognized third-party, new-home warranty program. We recognize New Home Warranty Program of Saskatchewan, Progressive Home Warranty Solutions and National Home Warranty Group.

So, when people suggest that older homes are built better than new homes, well that is simply just not true. There are a lot of safe guards in place to ensure your new home is in fact built better than ever before. You can learn more about this and many other housing-related subjects at

Stu Niebergall is president and CEO of the Regina Region Home Builders’ Association.

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