Appendix A - Division A

A-    Factory-Built Houses. The Vancouver Building By-law applies the same requirements to site-built and factory-built houses. However, it can often be difficult determining whether a factory-built house complies with these requirements once it has been delivered to its construction site because many of the wall, roof and floor assemblies are closed in and their components cannot be inspected. CSA Standard CAN/CSA-A277, “Procedure for Certification of Factory-Built Houses”, was developed to address this problem. It describes a procedure whereby an independent certification agency can review the quality control procedures of a housing factory and make periodic, unannounced inspections of its products and thus, through suitable labeling, provide assurance to authorities at the final site that those components which cannot be inspected on site comply with the code indicated on the label. It is not a building code, only a procedure for certifying compliance of factory-built components with a building code or other standard. If a factory-built house bears a label of an accredited certification agency indicating that compliance with the Vancouver Building By-law has been certified using the A277 procedure, the accepting authority will have some assurance that the hidden components do not need to be inspected again on site.

On the other hand, portions of the CSA-Z240 series of standards on mobile homes do resemble a building code. These portions contain requirements in many of the areas where the Vancouver Building By-law also has requirements and frequently the requirements are different. Other portions of the Z240 standards deal with special requirements for mobile homes related to the fact that these houses are intended to be periodically moved over roads. The Vancouver Building By-law considers mobile homes certified to the Z240 standard as acceptable housing and they are permitted under Clause

A-    Application to Existing Buildings. This By-law is most often applied to existing or relocated buildings when an owner wishes to rehabilitate a building, change its use, or build an addition, or when an enforcement authority decrees that a building or class of buildings be altered for reasons of public safety. It is not intended that the VBBL be used to enforce the retrospective application of new requirements to existing buildings or existing portions of relocated buildings, unless specifically required by local regulations or bylaws. For example, although the VFBL could be interpreted to require the installation of fire alarm, standpipe and hose, and automatic sprinkler systems in an existing building for which there were no requirements at the time of construction, the VFBL should not be applied in this manner to these buildings unless the Chief Building Official has determined that there is an inherent threat to occupant safety and has issued an order to eliminate the unsafe condition, or where substantial changes or additions are being made to an existing building or the occupancy has been changed. (See also Appendix Note A- of Division A of the VFBL.)

Relocated buildings that have been in use in another location for a number of years can be considered as existing buildings, in part, and the same analytical process can be applied as for existing buildings. It should be noted, however, that a change in occupancy may affect some requirements (e.g. loads and fire separations) and relocation to an area with different wind, snow or earthquake loads will require the application of current By-law requirements. Depending on the construction of the building and the changes in load, structural modifications may be required. Similarly, parts of a relocated or existing building that are reconstructed, such as foundations and basements, or parts being modified are required to be built to current by-law.

Whatever the reason, By-law application to existing or relocated buildings requires careful consideration of the level of safety needed for that building. This consideration involves an analytical process similar to that required to assess alternative design proposals for new construction. See Clause and its Appendix Note for information on achieving compliance with the By-law using alternative solutions.

In developing By-law requirements for new buildings, consideration has been given to the cost they impose on a design in relation to the perceived benefits in terms of safety. The former is definable; the latter difficult to establish on a quantitative basis. In applying the By-law requirements to an existing building, the benefits derived are the same as in new buildings. On the other hand, the increased cost of implementing in an existing building a design solution that would normally be intended for a new building may be prohibitive.

The successful application of By-law requirements to existing construction becomes a matter of balancing the cost of implementing a requirement with the relative importance of that requirement to the overall By-law objectives. The degree to which any particular requirement can be relaxed without affecting the intended level of safety of the By-law requires considerable judgment on the part of both the designer and the Chief Building Official.

Further information on the application of By-law requirements to existing or relocated buildings may be found in the following publications:

These publications can be ordered through Client Services, Institute for Research in Construction, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R6, or through the Web site at

Heritage Buildings

Many local governments have identified conservation of selected heritage properties, or protection of the heritage character of certain areas, as being community planning objectives. The Province's planning objectives and growth strategy encourage and support local government in this effort. The key is to find ways to make restoration and rehabilitation of heritage buildings economically viable for the properties' owners.

It is generally recognized that the present Building By-law was primarily written for new construction and provides for a performance level that is significantly higher than what exists with many older buildings. To apply present Building By-law provisions to existing buildings is, in many cases, impractical and with heritage buildings may compromise historic appearances or authenticity. Therefore, [. . .] Alternate Compliance Methods in Part 10 were developed to provide alternate methods for complying with the performance level intended by the Building By-law. The use of sprinklers is advocated as one of the primary methods in assuring this performance level for heritage buildings. Sprinkler systems not only control the fire which aids evacuation, but also provides the added benefit of protecting the building from possible destruction by fire.

The Alternative Compliance Methods represents some of the ways that restoration and rehabilitation of heritage buildings can be facilitated without compromising the objectives of the Building By-law. Only buildings which have been identified by the Provincial or local government are included in the definition of “heritage building.” For these buildings, conservation is also a public objective. Heritage buildings often offer unique problems and opportunities, and each situation must be assessed individually.

The use of the Alternate Compliance Methods in Part 10 is not mandatory and an owner may choose to apply Division B or other Section in Part 10, may wish to apply alternate solutions as permitted by Clause, or may wish to combine these options.

A-    By-law Compliance via Acceptable Solutions. If a building design (e.g. material, component, assembly or system) can be shown to meet all provisions of the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B (e.g. it complies with the applicable provisions of a referenced standard), it is deemed to have satisfied the objectives and functional statements linked to those provisions and thus to have complied with that part of the By-law. In fact, if it can be determined that a design meets all the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B, there is no need to consult the objectives and functional statements in Division A to determine its compliance.

A-    By-law Compliance via Alternative Solutions. Where a design differs from the acceptable solutions in Division B, then it should be treated as an “alternative solution.” A proponent of an alternative solution must demonstrate that the alternative solution addresses the same issues as the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B and their attributed objectives and functional statements. However, because the objectives and functional statements are entirely qualitative, demonstrating compliance with them in isolation is not possible. Therefore, Clause identifies the principle that Division B establishes the quantitative performance targets that alternative solutions must meet. In many cases, these targets are not defined very precisely by the acceptable solutions — certainly far less precisely than would be the case with a true performance code, which would have quantitative performance targets and prescribed methods of performance measurement for all aspects of building performance. Nevertheless, Clause makes it clear that an effort must be made to demonstrate that an alternative solution will perform as well as a design that would satisfy the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B – not “well enough” but “as well as.”

In this sense, it is Division B that defines the boundaries between acceptable risks and the “unacceptable” risks referred to in the statements of the By-law's objectives, i.e. the risk remaining once the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B have been implemented represents the residual level of risk deemed to be acceptable by the broad base of Canadians who have taken part in the consensus process used to develop the By-law.

Level of Performance

Where Division B offers a choice between several possible designs, it is likely that these designs may not all provide exactly the same level of performance. Among a number of possible designs satisfying acceptable solutions in Division B, the design providing the lowest level of performance should generally be considered to establish the minimum acceptable level of performance to be used in evaluating alternative solutions for compliance with the By-law.

Sometimes a single design will be used as an alternative solution to several sets of acceptable solutions in Division B. In this case, the level of performance required of the alternative solution should be at least equivalent to the overall level of performance established by all the applicable sets of acceptable solutions taken as a whole.

Each provision in Division B has been analyzed to determine to what it applies and what it is intended to achieve. The resultant application and intent statements clarify what undesirable results each provision seeks to preclude. These statements are not a legal component of the By-law, but are advisory in nature, and can help By-law users establish performance targets for alternative solutions. They are published in the electronic and CD versions of the By-law.

Areas of Performance

A subset of the acceptable solutions in Division B may establish criteria for particular types of designs (e.g. certain types of materials, components, assemblies, or systems). Often such subsets of acceptable solutions are all attributed to the same objective: Fire Safety for example. In some cases, the designs that are normally used to satisfy this subset of acceptable solutions might also provide some benefits that could be related to some other objective: Fire Protection of the Building for example. However, if none of the applicable acceptable solutions are linked to Objective OP1, Fire Protection of the Building, it is not necessary that alternative solutions proposed to replace these acceptable solutions provide a similar benefit related to Fire Protection of the Building. In other words, the acceptable solutions in Division B establish acceptable levels of performance for compliance with the By-law only in those areas defined by the objectives and functional statements attributed to the acceptable solutions.

Applicable Acceptable Solutions

In demonstrating that an alternative solution will perform as well as a design that would satisfy the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B, its evaluation should not be limited to comparison with the acceptable solutions to which an alternative is proposed. It is possible that acceptable solutions elsewhere in the By-law also apply. The proposed alternative solution may be shown to perform as well as the most apparent acceptable solution which it is replacing but may not perform as well as other relevant acceptable solutions. For example, an innovative sheathing material may perform adequately as sheathing in a wall system that is braced by other means but may not perform adequately as sheathing in a wall system where the sheathing must provide the structural bracing. All applicable acceptable solutions should be taken into consideration in demonstrating the compliance of an alternative solution.

A-    Buildings Divided by Firewalls. This concept relates to the provisions directly regulated by this By-law and does not apply to electrical service entrance requirements, which are regulated by other documents.

A-    Buildings on Sloping Sites. Application of the definition of grade to stepped buildings on sloping sites often results in such buildings being designated as being greater than 3 storeys in building height even though there may be only 2 or 3 storeys at any one location. The diagrams below illustrate this application compared to a similar building on a flat site.

Under this Sentence, Building A can be considered as being 3 storeys in building height instead of 6 storeys in building height. Both Building A and B are comparable with regard to fire safety and egress.

This relaxation applies to the determination of building height only. All other requirements continue to apply as appropriate.

Figure A-

Application of the definition of grade

Under this Sentence, Building A can be considered as being 3 storeys in building height instead of 6 storeys in building height. Both Building A and Building B are comparable with regard to fire safety and egress. This relaxation applies to the determination of building height only. All other requirements continue to apply as appropriate.

A-   Portable Classroom Exemption. This exemption is based on the following considerations

A-   Energy Utilization By-law. See Building Bulletin 2004-008-BU for more details on the implementation of the Energy Utilization By-law to the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 edition.

A-    Defined Terms.

Auxiliary Water Supply

The auxiliary water supply may include water from a secondary potable water supply or from any natural source, such as a well, lake, spring, stream or harbour. It may also include waste water (but not sanitary drainage) from industrial processes, such as cooling towers, or from storm retention ponds. These sources may be polluted or contaminated and constitute an unacceptable water source over which the primary water purveyor does not have sanitary control. It is generally accepted that there are two categories of auxiliary water supply:

  1. any public potable water supply over which the primary water purveyor does not have sanitary control, or
  2. any private water supply, other than the primary potable water supply, that is on or available to the premises.

Class 3 Fire Sprinkler/Standpipe Systems

In Class 3 fire sprinkler/standpipe systems, water is supplied to the storage facilities from the public water supply and is maintained in potable condition. Class 3 fire sprinkler/standpipe systems resemble Class 1 fire sprinkler/standpipe systems in all other respects.

Clear-Water Waste

Examples of clear-water waste are the waste waters discharged from a drinking fountain, cooling jacket, air conditioner or relief valve outlet.

Designated Flood Plain

Designated Flood Plain. Buildings(1) are not permitted to be constructed where the underside of a floor system or the top of a concrete slab used for habitation, business, or storage of goods could become damaged by flood water. The following criteria are guidelines to minimise the potential for flood damage.

a) The Fraser River and False Creek

b) Burrard Inlet and English Bay

These setback and flood construction elevation requirements would not apply to on-loading and off-loading facilities associated with a water-oriented industry. The setback requirement may be reduced subject to the completion of an appropriate engineering study, the construction of any required erosion protection works designed by a Professional Engineer and the acceptance of the City Engineer. Technical advice may be obtained from the Regional Water Manager, Ministry of Environment and Parks.

Any construction materials used below the guideline flood construction elevation should be constructed from concrete, masonry, corrosion-protected steel or pressure-treated wood. Heating and electrical appliances (including switches and outlets, which are not of a submersible type) should be installed above the guideline flood construction elevation.

Non-habitable buildings such as carports, open-sided livestock building, etc. that are not used for the storage of goods that would not be damaged by flood waters do not need to comply to the above guidelines.

(1)  The flood construction elevation guidelines indicated above may be reduced by 0.6 m for industrial buildings.
(2)  Where the natural boundary can be determined, an additional elevation for wave run-up may be calculated by considering the flood construction level to be 1.5 metres above the natural boundary.

Emergency Floor Drains

There are two types of floor drains. One is an emergency floor drain installed to avoid flooding in a building from any pipe or fixture failure. The other encompasses floor drains installed to receive discharge from specific pieces of equipment; this type is defined as a fixture.


Exits include doors or doorways leading directly into an exit stair or directly to the outside. In the case of an exit leading to a separate building, exits also include vestibules, walkways, bridges or balconies.

Farm Building

Farm buildings as defined in Article include, but are not limited to, produce storage and packing facilities, livestock and poultry housing, milking centres, manure storage facilities, grain bins, silos, feed preparation centres, farm workshops, greenhouses, farm retail centres, and horse riding, exercise and training facilities. Farm buildings may be classed as low or high human occupancy, depending on the occupant load.

Examples of farm buildings likely to be classed as low human occupancy as defined in Article of the National Farm Building Code of Canada are livestock and poultry housing, manure and machinery storage facilities and horse exercise and training facilities where no bleachers or viewing area are provided.

Examples of farm buildings that would be classed as other than low human occupancy include farm retail centres for feeds, horticultural and livestock produce, auction barns and show areas where bleachers or other public facilities are provided. Farm work centres where the number of workers frequently exceeds the limit for low human occupancy will also be in this category.

It is possible to have areas of both high and low human occupancy in the same building provided that the structural safety and fire separation requirements for high human occupancy are met in the part thus designated.

Fire Separation

A fire separation may or may not have a fire-resistance rating.

Heritage Building

Heritage buildings are buildings that are legally recognized by the Province or a local government as having historic, architectural or cultural value for the Province or their communities. To qualify as a heritage building under the Vancouver Building By-law, a building must be:

Mechanically Vented

The definition of this term is intended to include all types of appliances and venting systems that rely entirely on fans to evacuate the products of combustion. Systems variously referred to as “forced draft,” “power vented” and “induced draft” in standards and industry terminology may be covered by this definition. The key characteristic of such systems is that they are more resistant to depressurization-induced spillage of combustion products into the building in which they are housed because the combustion venting system downstream of the fan is “sealed,” i.e. includes no draft hood or draft control device.


A single family dwelling with a secondary suite is considered one dwelling unit for the purposes of Sentence of Division A.

Post-disaster Building

There may be circumstances where the Chief Building Official would choose to exempt certain types of buildings or parts thereof from being designated as post-disaster buildings in order to permit them to be governed by Part 9 rather than by the rest of the By-law. Such is the case in the following examples: an ambulance that is stored at a volunteer's residence or a police station that is housed in a small shopping mall. The circumstances where such exemptions are permitted are intentionally limited by the definition of post-disaster building.

Public Corridor

A covered mall is considered to be a public corridor and, as such, is subject to the same requirements as a public corridor.

Service Room

Typical examples of service rooms include boiler rooms, furnace rooms, incinerator rooms, garbage handling rooms and rooms to accommodate air-conditioning or heating appliances, pumps, compressors and electrical equipment. Rooms such as elevator machine rooms and common laundry rooms are not considered to be service rooms.

Storage Garage

Entrances at which vehicles stop for a short time beneath an unenclosed canopy to pick up and drop off passengers are not considered as storage garages.


Tenancy in the context of the term “suite” applies to both rental and ownership tenure. In a condominium arrangement, for example, dwelling units are considered separate suites even though they are individually owned. In order to be of complementary use, a series of rooms that constitute a suite must be in reasonably close proximity to each other and have access to each other either directly by means of a common doorway or indirectly by a corridor, vestibule or other similar arrangement.

The term “suite” does not apply to rooms such as service rooms, common laundry rooms and common recreational rooms that are not leased or under a separate tenure in the context of the By-law. Similarly, the term “suite” is not normally applied in the context of buildings such as schools and hospitals, since the entire building is under a single tenure. However, a room that is individually rented is considered a suite. A warehousing unit in a mini-warehouse is a suite. A rented room in a nursing home could be considered as a suite if the room was under a separate tenure. A hospital bedroom on the other hand is not considered to be under a separate tenure, since the patient has little control of that space, even though he or she pays the hospital a per diem rate for the privilege of using the hospital facilities, which include the sleeping areas.

For certain requirements in the By-law, the expression “room or suite” is used (e.g., travel distance). This means that the requirement applies within the rooms of suites as well as to the suite itself and to rooms that may be located outside the suite. In other places the expression “suite, and rooms not located within a suite” is used (e.g., for the installation of smoke and heat detectors). This means that the requirement applies to individual suites as defined, but not to each room within the suite. The rooms “not within a suite” would include common laundry rooms, common recreational rooms and service rooms, which are not considered as tenant-occupied space.

Illustrations for Defined Terms

Figure A- -A

Backflow Preventer

Figure A- -B


Notes to Figure A- -B

(1)  Figure A- shows a situation that is fairly common in old buildings. If the bathtub is filled to a level above the faucet outlet, or if the flush valve of the water closet is faulty, and if the faucet at the sink or lavatory on the lower floor is opened, water can be drawn (siphoned) from the bathtub or the water closet into the water system when the pressure in the water system is low or the water supply has been shut off.
(2)  Back-siphonage can be prevented in the above situations by providing an air gap or a back-siphonage preventer (see Subsection 7.6.2. of Division B).

Figure A- -C

Back-Siphonage Preventer

Figure A- -D

Branch Vent

Note to Figure A- -D

(1)  See also the definitions of header and drainage system in Article

Figure A- -E

Continuous Vent

Figure A- -F

Drainage System

Figure A- -G

Venting System

Figure A- -H

Fixture Outlet Pipe and Trap Arm

Figure A- -I

Vent Header

Note to Figure A- -I

(1)  Although a vent header is similar to a branch vent, it serves the special purpose of connecting the tops of stack vents or vent stacks. To make certain that it is adequate for that purpose, it is made larger than a branch vent. The developed length used to determine its size is the total length from the most distant soil-or-waste pipe to outside air, rather than the shorter length used to size a branch vent.

Figure A- -J

Nominally Horizontal and Nominally Vertical

Figure A- -K


Figure A- -L

Plumbing System

A-    Application of Referenced Documents. Documents referenced in the VBBL may contain provisions covering a wide range of issues, including issues that are unrelated to the objectives and functional statements stated in Parts 2 and 3 of Division A respectively; e.g. aesthetic issues such as colour-fastness or uniformity. Sentence is intended to make it clear that, whereas referencing a document in the VBBL generally has the effect of making the provisions of that document part of the By-law, provisions that are unrelated to buildings or to the objectives and functional statements attributed to the provisions in Division B where the document is referenced are excluded.

Furthermore, many documents referenced in the VBBL contain references to other documents, which may also, in turn, refer to other documents. These secondary and tertiary referenced documents may contain provisions that are unrelated to buildings or to the objectives and functional statements of the VBBL: such provisions — no matter how far down the chain of references they occur — are not included in the intent of Sentence of Division A.

A-    Objectives.

Listing of objectives

Any gaps in the numbering sequence of the objectives are due to the fact that there is a master list of objectives covering the three principal Vancouver By-law Documents – the Vancouver Building By-law, the Vancouver Fire By-law – but not all objectives are pertinent to all By-laws.

The building

Where the term “the building” is used in the wording of the objectives, it refers to the building for which compliance with the Vancouver Building By-law is being assessed.


The term “emergency” – in the context of safety in buildings – is often equated to the term “fire emergency;” however, the wording of objectives OS3.7 and OS5.9 makes it clear that the By-law addresses any type of emergency that would require the rapid evacuation of the building, such as a bomb threat or the presence of intruders.

A-    Functional Statements.

Listing of functional statements

The numbered functional statements are grouped according to functions that deal with closely related subjects. For example, the first group deals with fire risks, the second group deals with emergency egress and response, etc. There may be gaps in the numbering sequence for the following reasons: