Certification: The verification that a product or procedure meets a specific standard; the certification may be in the form of a certificate, seal or permission to use a trademark from an authority having jurisdiction.
Standard: A publication which describes recognized or approved procedures, practices, technical requirements and terminologies.
Simply put, standards make everyday life work and for Canadian businesses, standards open a world of possibilities. … Standards are an invisible infrastructure working behind the scenes to protect the safety of all Canadians. (The Standards Council of Canada, https://www.scc.ca/en/standards/what-are-standards/benefits.)
Like other industries and professions, the design-construction industry has, over time, developed accepted practices, uniform technical requirements, and agreed-upon terminologies. This has been accomplished through the adoption of standards. A standard is not a regulation, although the adoption of a standard by the industry may be referenced in regulation such as the building code. However, the adoption of standards by the industry becomes the “rules of the art” and the architect must take this into account. It is important for the architect to know of the existence of standards and have knowledge of the content standards that are relevant to practice and building and site design.
Standards are publications prepared by experts. The development of the standard is frequently based on a consensus of those selected or those who volunteer to develop the standard. Once a standard has been adopted, manufacturers, suppliers and testing agencies certify that a product or material meets the selected standard.
Other procedures and standards are developed and promoted by trade associations, which are organizations comprised of members of similar construction trades or manufacturers. Examples of trade associations include the Cement Association of Canada (CAC) and the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada (AWMAC).
This chapter discusses the role of standards and standards organizations, certification and testing agencies, and trade associations in the construction industry.
Several standards organizations have specific products that focus on the design of buildings, the materials used in them, and the processes of both design and construction. Examples of nationally and internationally recognized organizations and associated standards systems in Canada, with a summary list of those products related to design and construction, include:
Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
- business/management systems;
- construction materials and products;
- design of select building systems;
- electrical and electronics materials, products and design;
- renewable energy and energy conservation in housing;
- fire safety and fuel burning equipment;
- environmental technology and management systems;
- gas equipment;
- health care technology;
- public safety/occupational health and safety;
- materials technology;
- materials handling and logistics.
Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)
- 350 standards, specifications, manuals;
- ISO 9001 conformity assessment services;
- accredited ISO 9001 quality system registration services;
- accredited ISO 14001 environmental management systems services.
Underwriters Laboratories of Canada
- building construction materials;
- burglar alarm equipment and systems;
- factory-built fireplaces, chimneys, and vents;
- fire alarm equipment and systems;
- fire extinguishers, extinguishing systems, and fire extinguishing media;
- fittings and associated equipment for flammable fuels;
- fittings and associated equipment for gases;
- kitchen exhaust equipment;
- physical security equipment;
- thermal insulation.
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (Health Canada) (WHMIS)
- Canada’s national hazard communication standard for controlled products.
Organization for Standardization (ISO)
- Standardization of procedures and processes in multiple fields designed to reduce trade barriers.
- ISO 9000 – Quality Management;
- ISO 14000 – Environmental Management;
- ISO 21500 – Project Management.
Detailed descriptions of each of these organizations are provided in Appendix A at the end of this chapter.
Where organizations like the Canadian Standards Association and Underwriters Laboratories of Canada focus on the standardization of building materials and assemblies, the standardization of architectural design processes is not a subject that has been explicitly addressed at an industry-wide level. Government and institutional clients have prescribed drawing and specification conventions. CAD software has provided standardized templates and symbol libraries; however, customization of processes to demonstrate creative ability, alignment with client requirements, and/or gain competitive advantage are common.
Driving a greater interest in standardization of architectural practice processes and procedures is the need for interoperability between project stakeholders’ offices because of building information modelling (BIM). The digital model developed by the architect becomes a part of a federated model developed and used by the engineers for design, contractors, trades and suppliers for construction, and building owners to operate their facilities. The need for a standardized approach to model development becomes critical to design collaboration and coordination.
The Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) and its buildingSMART Canada (bSC) council have published the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM. This three-volume document provides both broad and deep information about BIM processes as well as comprehensive process diagrams and checklists.
See the reference list at the end of this chapter for details about the Canadian Practice Manual for BIM.
See also Chapter 2.1 – The Construction Industry.
Increased global trade and the requirements of certain trade agreements result in pressure upon Canada to “harmonize” its standards with those of its trading partners and with international standards. Harmonizing standards is difficult because the mandates of the various standards writing organizations differ. For example, in one nation, the mandate for the development of a certain standard may be restricted to electrical safety, whereas in another country, it may include not only electrical safety but also operator safety, energy efficiency, and other requirements. For this reason, architects must review any changes in updated standards and not assume that the scope, details or minimum level of performance of a standard will be the same as in the previous version.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-governmental federation of national standards bodies from 163 different countries. ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes, one member per country, with a central secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.
The International Organization works with member countries to develop standards that will improve operating efficiencies and reduce trade barriers among nations. The results of this work are international agreements, published as International Standards. ISO covers standardization in all fields except electrical and electronic engineering, which is the responsibility of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
For additional information about the ISO, refer to https://www.iso.org.
Standards in Canada are written and promoted by many different organizations, including government, industry, trade, public interest groups and professional organizations.
Funding for the development and maintenance of standards comes from a variety of sources, including:
- membership fees;
- the sale of standards.
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a federal Crown corporation with the mandate to promote efficient and effective standardization. The SCC coordinates and oversees voluntary standards development, promotion, and implementation in Canada through the National Standards System. It also coordinates Canada’s participation in international standardization through the IEC and ISO.
The Standards Council of Canada has accredited hundreds of organizations. Some of these develop standards; others are conformity assessment bodies or certification agencies, which determine the compliance of products or services to the requirements of a standard. The list of accredited organizations includes:
- standards development organizations;
- certification agencies;
- testing and calibration laboratories;
- quality management systems (QMS), registration organizations that perform registrations to the ISO 9000 series standards;
- environmental management systems (EMS), registration organizations that perform registrations to the ISO 14000 series standards;
- certifiers and trainers who certify and train QMS and EMS auditors.
For additional information about the Standards Council of Canada, refer to https://www.scc.ca.
Standards developed by non-government organizations in Canada have no force in law unless they are referenced in legislation. Many of the standards encountered by architects are referenced in:
- national building, energy, and fire codes;
- provincial or territorial building codes and regulations;
- occupational health and safety acts and regulations.
Even if a standard is not required by legislation, it cannot be ignored. Some standards carry weight in the marketplace because an industry or trade association promotes them and enforces compliance by its members. Other standards ensure that products specified by architects are of a known quality.
Architects must be familiar with current standards when preparing specifications. See also Chapter 6.4 – Construction Documents – Drawings and Specifications.
Standards cannot be static, because they must respond to:
- changes in industrial processes;
- the introduction of new techniques or materials;
- new safety or environmental priorities.
Feedback about current standards may lead to their withdrawal or revision, or to the development of new ones. A standard may be withdrawn because:
- it is no longer needed;
- no one wants to fund its maintenance any longer;
- it is cheaper to adopt a standard developed elsewhere.
Many standards are reviewed on a regular cycle, such as every five years. The schedules for updating standards and for revising legislation which references standards (for example, building and electrical codes) may bear no relation to one another. As a result, the latest standard is not necessarily the version referenced by regulations or codes.
See “Appendix A – List: Standards Organizations” at the end of this chapter for various standards writing organizations.
In addition to knowledge of the content of standards relevant to practice, the architect is prudent to recognize that standards are created by organizations pursuing specific objectives. Those objectives may be worthwhile, benefit society, and promote a sustainable environment. In addition to being standards for building design, such as LEED, Zero Carbon, Passive House, and WELL, these certification systems are essentially brands created and promoted by not-for-profit organizations. The architect should be aware of the specifics of each of these branded certification systems, and counsel the client in the adoption of one or more certifications to ensure that the purpose of the certification is aligned with the client’s project and strategic objectives.
There are multiple certification systems available that reflect the achievement of both standards in building design and the knowledge and skill of professional and paraprofessional certified practitioners. The three below are established and have received wide acceptance by clients and the design-construction industry.
The Canada Green Building Council was formed in December 2002. Originally it was the Sustainable Buildings Canada Committee of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada; however, after a couple of successful years, the committee very quickly outgrew its original mandate and included many members from the design and construction industry who were not architects, and it needed to expand. The RAIC assisted in the creation of the CaGBC, provided administrative support, and housed the CaGBC in its offices during its formative years. CaGBC is affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) are engaged in a joint venture called GBCI Canada. This joint venture administers nine different building and site design and construction certifications and programs, including LEED, WELL, TRUE, SITES, and ARC, as well as four different credentialing programs.
See also Chapter 2.1 – The Construction Industry for more information on the Canada Green Building Council, and Chapter 6.1 – Pre-design – Appendix A – Green Building Rating Systems for more information on LEED.
For additional information about the CaGBC, refer to https://www.cagbc.org.
For additional information about GBCI Canada, refer to http://www.gbcicanada.ca/about.shtml.
The International WELL Building Institute created the WELL building standards and the WELL practitioner certification system to advance the concept of health and well-being in buildings globally. IWBI certifies buildings using it. Register your office, building or other space to leverage WELL’s flexible framework for improving health and human experience through design. The WELL certification in Canada is administered by GBCI Canada.
For additional information about IWBI visit https://www.wellcertified.com/about-iwbi.
Passive House (Passivhaus) is a standard for residential design developed in Germany and adopted internationally. Designing and constructing residential buildings employing the Passive House standard will result in drastically reduced energy consumption. Taking advantage of heating, cooling and ventilation through passive design techniques can result in comfortable environments year-round using no more than the energy required to power a hair dryer. Achieving the Passive House standard requires rigorous design, energy modeling, and attention paid to the construction of each detail on site.
Passive House Canada is a not-for-profit organization advocating for Passive House high performance building standards. For additional information on Passive House Canada, refer to
A standard is not useful unless compliance with its requirements can be verified. Certification is the confirmation, usually by an independent organization, that a product or service meets a requirement. Certification of a product, process or system may involve:
- physical examination;
- plant examination;
- unannounced follow-up inspections of a manufacturing site or service provider.
This procedure leads to the issuing of a formal assurance or declaration – by means of a seal, label, trademark or certificate – that the product, process or system fully conforms with the requirements of the standard. Certification indicates that a product or system has been evaluated under a formal process and that the product complies with all applicable standards.
In the past, a third party was used to certify and test for conformance to most standards. Recently, there has been a shift from third-party certification to self-certification in order to reduce the costs and the time involved in obtaining certification. Permission to self-certify is only granted after a manufacturer or service provider has implemented quality assurance procedures and submitted to examination and testing by a recognized authority.
See “Appendix B – List: Certification and Testing Agencies” at the end of this chapter.
See also Chapter 5.4 – Quality Management.
The construction industry has many trade associations whose purposes include:
- promoting their industry or sector;
- developing good practices and standards for their trade or product;
- conducting research and development within the specific field of the trade associations;
- publishing and distributing information, guides and manuals to members and others;
- lobbying government and others regarding issues specific to the trade or product.
Although trade associations vary in size and sophistication, many conduct research and prepare standards. The architect should be aware of these standards. The research on products, materials and procedures can contribute to the design process, and many trade association standards should be referenced in project specifications.
See “Appendix C – List: Trade Associations” at the end of this chapter.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Dickinson, John, Paul Woodward. Canadian Practice Manual for BIM – Volumes 1, 2 and 3, buildingSMART Canada, 2016.
“Registry of Product Evaluations.” Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC), National Research Council of Canada, https://nrc.canada.ca/en/certifications-evaluations-standards/canadian-construction-materials-centre/ccmc-publications/registry.html, accessed March 20, 2020.
National Building Code of Canada 2015. Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC), National Research Council of Canada, 2015, https://nrc.canada.ca/en/certifications-evaluations-standards/codes-canada/codes-canada-publications/national-building-code-canada-2015, accessed March 20, 2020.
NFPA Codes and Standards. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
“Benefits of applying standards.” Standards Council of Canada, https://www.scc.ca/en/standards/what-are-standards/benefits, accessed March 20, 2020.