New building design rules must account for seismic activity

(Robert Fisher photo) New construction designs will need to incorporate updated codes and rules for seismic events as a result of a reclassification of seismic probabilities in southwest New Brunswick.

SAINT ANDREWS – The Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission is hosting a designing for earthquakes information session in Saint Andrews.

National building codes have had provisions for earthquakes for decades, according to commission building inspector Vern Faulkner. Whether those national codes must be implemented locally depends on the likelihood of a seismic event at a certain threshold. National standards were revised in 2015 and New Brunswick now meets the threshold.

“It’s been standard procedure, for example, on the west coast of British Columbia or in some of the high wind areas of Newfoundland,” said Faulkner. “As part of preparing data for the 2015 national building code, Earthquakes Canada revised the seismic activity for a number of regions across Canada. And ours was one of them.”

Faulkner said there is a fault line that runs through Oak Bay into the Bay of Fundy and continues between Deer Island and Eastport, Maine. According to information from the U.S. Geological Survey, a weak earthquake, measuring 2 on the Richter scale, hit in the Bay of Fundy between Deer Island and the mainland on May 7.

Faulkner said, in the past, the risk for the Charlotte County area had always been just below the threshold to require incorporating the more robust codes. When the data was revised for 2015, the area was assessed at a higher risk level, meaning building codes had to be updated.

Where the new rules become tricky, said Faulkner, is incorporating things like windows and doors into designs.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a complicated process, but there’s a set of rules and it’s new to our area,” he said.

Faulkner made clear that the changes are not anything the service commission or the province has implemented on its own. Rather these are national building standards that are applicable in all provinces.

The only other area east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is an area in Quebec, “so a lot of designers don’t have experience with this,” explained Faulkner. It’s a matter of worst case planning, he said.

There will be an interactive component of the session where participants will work through a design process and see what is required to incorporate the new rules. There is a virtual option for those unable to participate in person and Faulkner said they may also record the session to be available afterward.

The session takes place May 24 at the Heather Curling Club in Saint Andrews from 6:30 to 8 p.m.