The new model building codes for farm buildings have finally been released.
Technical experts in Ottawa signed off on the updates last summer, which represent the first overhaul of the model code for farm buildings since 1995. The model code sets the baseline for updates to provincial building codes, and recognize the fact that barn structures have changed dramatically since the 1990s.
“The typical single-storey, small area, timber-post and beam-framed farm buildings from a quarter century ago no longer represent the multistorey, large area, modern structures being designed and built today to meet the farming industry’s demands,” a summary of the changes states.
The new code requirements apply specifically to large farm buildings, those 600 square metres (6,460 square feet) in area or more than three storeys high.
Three key areas are affected by the changes, including fire protection and occupant safety; structural loads and procedures; and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning.
The greater floor area for farm buildings increases by half the limit set in 1995, affecting considerations with respect to fire safety. While automatic sprinklers are not required by the code, buildings that have them may receive relaxations in other requirements because of fire suppression measures are in place.
The new code includes requirements related “to egress, travel distance, doors, guards, signage, ramps and stairways” as well as exits. Requirements for these elements could be relaxed if barns have automatic sprinklers in place.
The revamped fire code also requires regular inspection of electrical and mechanical systems to mitigate the risk of fire from worn equipment and exposed wiring.
Heating and ventilation requirements have been updated to address the risk of gases and particulate matter igniting, as in silos and grain storage bins. Greenhouses, where gases can accumulate in pockets, are also addressed.
The new code requirements won’t affect existing farm buildings unless the farmer undertakes a major renovation. And they won’t apply until the provinces adopt them.
“The model codes are just that, they’re model codes,” says National Research Council technical advisor Gian-Luca Porcari. “They have no force of law until they’re adopted by somebody.”
The National Farm Building Code was originally published in 1964, and the current revision is the ninth.