Upcoming changes to Nova Scotia’s building code

Published August 6, 2020

Continuing along the province’s path to full accessibility, the Government of Nova Scotia has brought forward amendments that will require any new restaurant, including new establishments opened within existing buildings, to be constructed in complete accordance with the barrier-free requirements contained in the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations.

These amendments will require new restaurants to provide a barrier-free path of travel into the establishment from the exterior of the building, and throughout the public portion of the restaurant, including barrier-free access to a washroom facility.

These amendments are expected to come into effect on Sept. 30, 2020.

Nova Scotians are invited to review the proposed amendments and provide their feedback by Aug. 12, 2020. Instructions for submitting comments, as well as copies of the proposed amendments to the regulations, are available on the Government of Nova Scotia’s website.

Below are responses to frequently asked questions provided by the Government of Nova Scotia.

If you have any further questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Atlantic Canada, at lerjavec@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 5000.

Why is the Building Code changing?

The Building Code is changing to align itself with the Human Rights Tribunal decision that interpreted Section 20 of the Food Safety Regulations to include that washrooms within restaurants are to be accessible to persons in wheelchairs. As the Building Code deals with construction of buildings, including spaces used as restaurants, it is important that all newly constructed spaces that include restaurants comply with this decision. This will prevent any new restaurant, or any space converted to a restaurant from any other use (even within the same occupancy classification) from not being compliant with this decision.

What is considered a restaurant?

In this context, a restaurant is not currently defined within either the Food Safety Regulations or the Building Code. Amendments to the Food Safety Regulations are required to define restaurant. The Building Code Regulations will use that definition as well. The definition will reference a food establishment that serves food to customer to be eaten on site. It will apply to traditional restaurants, as well as fast food restaurants, cafes, delis, lunch counters, grocery stores that offer prepared foods for sale and seating on site to eat, sports facilities such as hockey rinks and bowling alleys that serve food and is eaten on site. Restaurants that do not offer space for food to be eaten on the premises will not be captured by the definition. Using the same definition is important to ensure that a restaurant under the Food Safety Regulations and subject to the Human Rights Tribunal decision, is captured in the Building Code.

What about takeout restaurants?

If there is no seating on the premises to eat and the expectation is to pay, pick up your food and take it with you to eat at another location, it would not be considered a restaurant under the proposed definition.

If I want to build a new restaurant what would I need to do?

The new restaurant would be required to comply with the current Nova Scotia Building Code. This would include providing a barrier-free path of travel from the exterior of the building, into the building and throughout the public portion of the restaurant including a washroom facility. This would apply to new construction or a renovated portion of an existing building where the use is a restaurant. This would make some locations unsuitable for restaurants such as a historic building that has steps to enter the building and no ramp or other barrier-free access into the building, or a basement or 2nd storey locations within a building that is accessible on the entrance storey, but doesn’t have a lift or elevator within a building to allow for barrier-free access to those floor levels above or below the entrance storey.

What about existing restaurants?

The Building Code applies to the design, construction, and occupancy of new buildings, and the alteration, reconstruction, removal, relocation, occupancy and change of occupancy classification of existing buildings. As explained above, where a space within an existing building is converted for use as a restaurant, the new requirements within the Building Code would be applicable to the construction of that restaurant.

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