SCC and CSA Group update infrastructure standards to support climate change needs in northern Canada

Canada’s North is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Current climatic conditions are changing rapidly, and northern communities have been and continue to be disproportionately affected by these changes. As temperatures increase, the north is seeing increasing permafrost thaw and precipitation.

To help northern communities adapt to climate change, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and CSA Group have collaborated to update four ‘By-the-north, for-the-north’ standards developed under the Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative. Tackling issues such as permafrost degradation, foundations, snow loads, and community drainage, these standards help building owners and operators – as well as those responsible for public and community infrastructure – build and maintain infrastructure in a changing climate.

“SCC has been working with communities, standards development organizations, and experts from across northern Canada to support the development of standards that help reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure and limit the impacts of climate change,” says Chantal Guay, CEO of SCC. “By planning ahead and working together to ensure that standards stay up to date, we can adapt and protect communities against future losses.”

“CSA Group is committed to contributing to a more sustainable world. Helping to protect built infrastructure by addressing the impacts of climate change is particularly important in the North,” says Mary Cianchetti, President of Standards at CSA Group. “These standards offer best practices to help manage and mitigate risks associated with our changing climate, and will contribute toward building a sustainable and resilient future for communities in the North.”

CSA Group, with support from SCC, has updated the following four standards:

Thermosyphons keep the ground frozen and stable in cold climates by transferring the heat from the ground to the air when appropriate temperature differentials prevail. This Standard helps to ensure the ongoing stability of new buildings constructed on permafrost with thermosyphon-supported foundations in Canada’s North.

The CSA S500 publication contains relevant information for owners, consultants, contractors and others who may be considering a thermosyphon stabilized foundation for their building or other structure. The publication has been prepared by a committee of experts who are familiar with the design and construction of thermosyphons, and is an excellent resource”.

Richard Trimble, Principal Consultant, Tetra Tech, Whitehorse Yukon Territory

The thermosyphon standard has filled a gap in relation to a technology that is very useful, particularly in a climate change context, but has not been consistently successfully applied. Reference to the standard facilitates understanding of the technology by owners and maintainers. Adherence to the standard promotes consistent performance through effective design and construction.”

Ed Hoeve, Geotechnical Engineer, HoevEng Consulting Ltd, Yellowknife Northwest Territories

Building on permafrost can be difficult because degradation to the permafrost can destabilize the structure. As temperatures continue to warm, more buildings will face challenges. This Standard outlines the steps to maintain, assess, and mitigate the effects on existing buildings.

As a member of the review committee for this important document that provided practical design guidelines to reduce the effects of permafrost degradation, I fully support this work and trust the sharing of knowledge in this field will continue.”

John Berg, Senior Associate, Stantec, NWT

CSA S501 has been updated by a team of researchers and practicing engineers to reflect progress in research and permafrost knowledge that has been developed in recent years. This standard has served the engineering community and, with these updates, will continue to do so in the future.”

Heather Brooks, Geotechnical and Arctic Engineer, BGC ENGINEERING INC., Edmonton

Arctic regions have seen an increase in snowfall and extreme snow events. These events cause excess loads (or weights) on buildings which can lead to structural damage, such as a collapsed roof. This Standard informs communities about safe snow removal methods for rooftops to help ensure the safety of buildings and occupants.

Community drainage planning in the North is unique for a wide variety of reasons. This Standard takes these issues into consideration and provides guidance on planning, design, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of drainage systems in Canada’s North.

Entirely planned and maintained drainage systems in northern communities are far and few between; having a common practice and Standard suitable for the Arctic and small communities is the first step in addressing this issue. This Standard will help guide not just consultants undertaking the improvements, but also the local communities and governments, to plan and maintain the systems successfully.”

Arlen Foster, P.Eng, Civil Team Lead, Northern Canada, Stantec Consulting Ltd., Yellowknife, NT

These Standards are available at no cost in English and French on the CSA Store.


June 16, 2021