The regulations that govern plumbing, heating, cooling and refrigeration to ensure that these systems are safe, reliable and perform as designed should be simple, straightforward and pretty much the same from coast to coast. Unfortunately, they are not and we have a rapidly increasing patchwork of regulations across the country.
For decades building systems ran largely under the radar of politicians. But environmental and to some degree consumer issues have pushed them to the forefront to the point that now we have every jurisdiction – federal, provincial and municipal – making its own rules. We also have different standards from our neighbors south of the border.
This has become particularly acute recently as different jurisdictions and different politicians try to become “greener” that the others. The many different regulations create a nightmare for manufacturers and confusion for system designers, installers and inspectors.
The current system is not sustainable, said Michel Girard, vice president, policy and stakeholder relations, for the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) in a recent address to the Manufacturers Division of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada.
Manufacturers have been saying this for years. It has increasingly become a struggle to supply different products for different provinces and even different municipalities in what is a relatively small market for these mostly international manufacturers. At some point some may just walk away from the Canadian market, deciding that for its size it’s just not worth the hassle.
So, what’s the solution? How do we stop politicians from meddling in technical issues they don’t understand? And it’s not that they don’t have a role, but that role is to set direction and then let the industry and technical experts find a solution.
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) and HRAI have both been very active in lobbying governments to harmonize regulations. But their resources are being stretched by the enormity of the problem.
However, some progress is being made. As we reported in the last issue, the SCC has announced a pilot project with its U.S. counterparts to develop a common standard for balloon-type ball backwater valves – a relatively new product that doesn’t yet have a standard. It is hoped that this will set a precedent for future co-operation between the U.S. and Canada in developing standards.
As well, federal initiatives to reduce red tape should help at that level. If only the provinces and municipalities could be convinced. In fairness, many of the technical people at the provincial and municipal level understand the problem. But they have to answer to their political masters.
We all understand that we need to do whatever we can to preserve the environment. The problem is that each government jurisdiction feels the need to “reinvent the wheel,” as it where.
The industry is doing everything it can to educate politicians. And in the end, the solution can only come from those politicians and will only come through a concerted effort between the federal and provincial governments to make harmonization of standards a priority.
Because Girard is right – the current situation is not sustainable.