Dwayne Torrey, Director, Construction & Infrastructure Standards, CSA Group

Over the last few years, we’ve all witnessed an increasing number of extreme weather events and natural disasters that have devastated communities right here in Canada and all over the world. Recognizing the financial, social, and emotional impacts of these events, catastrophe risk professionals and emergency managers from Canada, the U.S., Belgium, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom gathered earlier this month for the fourth annual Canadian Catastrophe Conference (CatIQ) to discuss the possible paths forward.

Conversations focused on how to incorporate climate change data and relevant information into capital markets, building codes, and risk management practices. There was a workshop on how Canadian municipalities can better address more frequent natural disasters and various panels and sessions on emerging clean technologies, nuclear emergencies, risk communications, lessons learned from hurricanes, and more. I had the opportunity to participate on one of the panels with the National Research Council (NRC) and Norton Engineering – and facilitated by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction – that explored the key role codes and standards can play in climate change adaptation and risk management.

Codes and standards have always served as building blocks for the protection of our infrastructure, systems, and people. They provide a protective shield around us in a very complex world and are useful tools to government, industry, and consumers in achieving a certain level of predictability and reliability. That’s why codes and standards form part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. To support the Framework, the NRC launched the Climate-Resilient Core Public Infrastructure Program, which includes updating building codes, specifications, guidelines, and assessment tools to help keep Canadians safe and resilient to our changing environment. Similarly, the Standards Council of Canada’s Infrastructure Program supports the development of standards that take into account the impacts of climate change, including in Canada’s North.

As part of these programs, CSA Group is leading the development of a number of climate change adaptation standards initiatives, expected to be completed this year. Among these initiatives is a new basement flood prevention guideline that outlines measures that can be taken in existing, new, rebuilt, and renovated houses in rural and urban settings under the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) Part 9 to address flood hazard risks such as overland flooding, storm and sanitary sewer backwater, infiltration flooding, and plumbing and drainage failures. The guideline also serves as the basis for the curriculum of a new training course for Canada’s 40,000 home inspectors, which will ultimately help buyers make informed decisions and consider implementing flood prevention measures. Other initiatives target our electrical infrastructure, structures, building durability, fenestration, wastewater treatment plants, green infrastructure for surface water, and northern issues such as fire-resilient community planning and building design.

Outside of this program, we have developed standards in alternative fuels and PV module testing, and we are also in the process of establishing a Technical Committee to develop the first ever standard on Building Energy Systems. Our environmental registries help build consumer confidence in the products they buy through easy-to-understand environmental product declarations. We also recognize that workers are impacted by climate change, which is why one of our latest occupational health and safety standards provides measures on work in extreme conditions.

It’s great to see that governments around the world are tackling climate change. Government policy does provide us with the necessary direction, but acting on climate change is a collective responsibility, a statement echoed by those in attendance at CatIQ. Built by consensus, codes and standards compliment policy and fill in any gaps by offering practical and actionable solutions that can help us adapt to a variety of circumstances. They can help us build and maintain resilient infrastructure that can better support the safety and prosperity of our communities now and for years to come.