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Construction standard changes to come this April

This spring, the City will be changing its construction standards dealing with new housing projects.

This spring, the City will be changing its construction standards dealing with new housing projects.

As of April 1, the City will no longer be offering exemptions relating to fire wall ratings as per the Alberta Building Code. Lyla Peter, planning and development manager, said this could affect how the outer walls of dwellings are built.

“Depending on the side yard setbacks, the improvements may affect the type of construction material required for side walls and whether side windows will be permitted.”

Under section of the Alberta Building Code, dwellings are exempt from the regular fire wall ratings on perimeter walls provided that the local fire department can respond to 90% of all calls within 10 minutes, said Peter. Over the last few months, the City has been reviewing and measuring the response time of the Lacombe Fire Department and has determined that it cannot meet the 10 minute response time. Therefore, the exemption must be removed.

“We have a fantastic fire service,” said Peter. “But because they are unable to offer that response time, we are unable to offer this exemption.”

She added the fire department not being able to meet the 10 minute response time is due to Lacombe’s growth away from the downtown. She added that this change also relates to the new fire policy passed by Lacombe City council in August of last year.

Another reason Lacombe Fire Department cannot meet the response time is because it is a volunteer department. That means that firefighters have to get to the fire hall before they can respond to an emergency.

Peter said that these standards are in place to prevent house fires inside dwellings from burning through to the outside of the building and to prevent fires spreading from house to house. With the new changes, the closer a house is built to its neighbours on either side, the higher the requirements for the fire ratings on those walls.

Deadlines for new projects to be considered under the old requirements depend on the application type. Peter said the biggest consideration in those deadlines is whether or not they require approval from the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).

For a discretionary use that requires approval from the MPC and any permitted use that requires a variance greater than 10%, the complete application must be submitted by Feb. 14. For permitted use that requires a variance of less than 10%, the deadline for the complete application is March 3. If the application fully complies with the requirements of the Land Use Bylaw, the deadline is March 13.