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New certification program means safer buildings

November 14, 2007

OTTAWA – Buildings in Canada will become safer than ever for Canadians and their families as a new professional certification program for Building Officials gets underway.

For the first time, Building Officials–the people who review all plans and inspect homes, apartments, hospitals, office towers, shopping malls, and many other types of buildings to make sure they comply with current building codes–will be certified to a National Standard as qualified professionals.

"The result is safe, code-compliant buildings right across the country," says Mannie Withrow, who will award the first 14 certifications at a special event today at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa. Mr. Withrow is President of the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials’ Associations (ACBOA)".

"It is high time these professionals who are knowledgeable and well-trained get the credit and recognition they deserve," adds Mr. Withrow, noting that Building Officials, who work behind the scenes to provide a level of comfort and safety for all Canadians, often did not get the respect they deserve because of the lack of national standards for this profession. "When we do our job right, nothing happens and Canadians get to enjoy the use and occupancy of all buildings across this great country."

Over the past couple of years, the Construction Sector Council (CSC) has partnered with ACBOA, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and other industry stakeholders to develop national occupational standards and a certification process that measures Building Officials' qualifications against an approved standard.

The CSC's Executive Director, George Gritziotis, says "Another important result is that the new national program means Building Officials' credentials will be recognized in all jurisdictions allowing them to work in any province." "The initiative addresses the challenge of an aging workforce and the inadequate supply of skilled labour," he says. "It will provide greater worker mobility, a wider variety of job opportunities and maintain the high level of professionalism required of this important occupation in the construction industry."

Established in 2001, the Construction Sector Council (CSC) is a not–for–profit national labour management organization mandated to address the human resource issues facing the construction industry in Canada. The CSC is supported by the Government of Canada's Sector Council Program.

MORE INFORMATION:
Mannie Withrow, President
Alliance of Canadian Building Officials' Associations
(902) 897-3170
mwithrow@colchester.ca

Rosemary Sparks, Senior Director of Planning and Development
Construction Sector Council
(613) 569-5552
sparks@csc-ca.org

BACKGROUNDER

A National Certification Program for Building Officials

What do Building Officials do?

There are about 7,000 Building Officials in Canada.

Building Officials review plans and inspect the construction of homes, apartments, hospitals, office towers, and many other types of buildings to make sure they comply with building codes. Their goal is to ensure that structural safety, accessibility, fire safety, health, and a range of other issues are addressed prior to occupancy.

Why is a certification program necessary?

When it comes to certification and licensing requirements for professional Building Officials, each province and territory has had different standards and expectations. Up until recently, there was no consistent national standard for performance, and an uneven quality of service that would sometimes lead to a lack of credibility in the inspection industry.

What are the benefits of a certification program?

A National Certification Program will lead to safer buildings, more recognition and a better public image for professional Building Officials. As well, their skills will be recognized anywhere in Canada allowing them to work in different provinces or jurisdictions. The program will also reduce exposure to legal action endured by municipal governments and others when projects are delayed or not up to code.

How did it come about?

The federal government became involved in the late 1990s by bringing together all interested stakeholders to align the certification, licensing and performance standards for Building Officials and for Home and Property Inspectors across Canada. Soon, national occupational standards were developed, outlining the required skills, knowledge and abilities that Building Officials needed to perform their duties.

Based on those performance standards, the Construction Sector Council, the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials Association and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation set up a process for Building Officials to become certified by accredited educational institutions as qualified professionals.

What is the process?

The certification program judges the Building Official's performance against an approved standard that ensures consistent, safe and high-quality inspection services.

In general, Building Officials must prove that they are familiar with current and past provincial and national building codes and standards, federal and provincial legislation and municipal bylaws pertaining to health, fire and life safety as they relate to construction. They must have a solid understanding of all aspects of the construction industry, including construction methods, procedures, practices and materials. These and other qualifications are learned and tested through a vigorous program of study, and on-the-job training requirements.

There are three stages to the National Certification Program for Building Officials: Candidate, Associate and Certified. Specific skill sets, education and training are necessary at each stage.

On November 14, 2007, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development will attend the launch of a new national certification and accreditation system in Ottawa where the first 14 Building Officials from across Canada will receive their certification. Representatives from the many parties involved in creating this new certification system including, the Construction Sector Council, the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, will be present.