Changes to BC Plumbing Code Enable Rainwater Harvesting

Note to Reader:

On December 3, 2013 the Partnership for Water Sustainability and the Irrigation Industry Association are joining forces to co-host a workshop that will explore regulatory requirements, water balance benefits and practical applications of rainwater harvesting design and operation. The workshop is structured as four cascading modules.

In the lead-off module, the team of Chris Midgley, Zachary May and Cate Soroczan will connect dots and paint the “big picture” for rainwater harvesting in BC. They will address the regulatory context that enables, and the opportunities this creates, for innovators and implementers to harvest and utilize rainwater where it falls. They will set the stage for a Town-Hall Sharing & Learning Session titled “What Do You Wonder”. Below is a preview of the perspective that Zachary May will provide.

To register for the workshop, go to the IIABC website:

TO DOWNLOAD a copy of the Program Overview, click on Get Your Mind Into the Gutter: A Workshop on Rainwater Harvesting in British Columbia.




Living Water Smart: Doing Business Differently in British Columbia

Many BC communities are often water-short when demand is greatest. And now our climate is changing. To future-proof communities, the 45 actions and targets in Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan establish expectations for doing business differently. This provincial target frames the learning outcomes for the workshop: 50% of new municipal water needs will be acquired through conservation by 2020.

BC Building Code Enables Innovation and Leadership

The theme for Module A is Living Water Smart: Doing Business Differently to Achieve Provincial Goals and Targets. Zachary May will elaborate on British Columbia’s enabling approach to regulation, and how this opens the door for innovators to innovate and implementers to implement.

Zachary May_120p“The BC Building Code enables innovation. Designers can propose Alternative Solutions to the Building Code. Coupled with this enabling opportunity, however, is a duty for designers to demonstrate how they are being responsible in applying an understanding of Building Science,” explains Zachary May. In effect, he adds, the Building Code has a backdoor for those who want to innovate outside of traditional approaches.

About Zachary May

Zachary May is a Codes Administrator with the Building and Safety Standards Branch. He has a background in residential construction and renovation with an emphasis on sustainable practices. In his role as a Codes Administrator, he works with a range of stakeholder groups to provide and support educational presentations related to the Building Code.

Building Science is the Foundation for Innovation in British Columbia

The storyline for Zachary May’s presentation is built around the enabling and shared responsibility theme: we are enabled; therefore, embrace shared responsibility.

To help set the context for the Town-Hall Sharing & Learning Session at the end of Module A, the 20-minute presentation by Zachary May will be structured in two parts. First, he will explain what being enabled means in practice. Then he will foreshadow what the Building & Safety Standards Branch envisions for an Alternative Solutions Guide for British Columbia. Shortly, he reports, the Branch will be proceeding with a massive review that will evaluate what non-traditional designs would look like.

Application of Building Science

According to Zachary May, the guiding philosophy of the Building & Safety Standards Branch is to keep the BC Building Code at a high level. He says that the Code  speaks to principles such as: how does this work; how is it supposed to work.

From his regulatory perspective, an important message is that when the Code steps back and leaves things broadly defined in order to enable innovation, it is then up to builders and designers to understand what is actually involved in applying Building Science.

Education, Education, Education

Being enabled means that individuals can choose to do something, or not. The challenge is that there is no appeals process for innovation. This means that owners, builders and designers are faced with convincing individual building inspectors about the benefits of doing business differently.

Ironically, the enabling process can cause headaches for innovators when building inspectors do not buy-in to changing standards of practice. Owners, builders and designers therefore need to ask the question: what does the regulator need?

“It is a language thing because building inspectors are trained to say NO. When it comes to breaking down barriers, it is all about education. As a Codes Administrator, my focus is on education and Green Buildings,” states Zachary May.

Shared Responsibility

The Code enables designers to propose something new. “This is why people need to understand the Code and HOW to demonstrate that a proposed innovation fits under the Code,” emphasizes Zachary May.

“It is a simple message to designers: you can do it your way, but there is duty on your part to demonstrate and take responsibility. In a nutshell, the Code is looking to professionals to do good work.”

Each party in any process has a responsibility. This is described as Shared Responsibility. There are solutions to be found if all parties simply talk to each other about how they could all work together more effectively. Whether the parties are regulators, owners, builders or designers…all need to understand the goals for Green Buildings. If everyone knows their role, then they can create the future that all desire.