The housing crisis in BC calls for modern, innovative solutions, according to Neil Moody, chief executive of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia.
“There is tremendous opportunity in using technology to automate code compliance and process permits so homes can be constructed faster, and this is a step we can take quickly,” he posits.
The Province of British Columbia is embarking on a plan to digitize the BC Building Code and streamline the building permitting process, paving the way for faster approvals and construction of new homes.
With an eye toward efficiency and innovation, the Ministry of Housing, in collaboration with the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, is set to pilot the digitization process in select local governments in 2024, with an aim of making British Columbia a North American leader in digital permitting and construction.”
“Technology helps us do just about everything these days, but the housing sector remains reliant on the paper system,” stated Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “To help speed up the homebuilding process, we’re investing in technology that will make us a North American leader in digital permitting and construction.
Despite the proliferation of technology in various sectors, the housing industry has remained tethered to traditional paper-based systems, resulting in delays and inefficiencies in the homebuilding process.
“Faster approvals and builds will unlock more homes for British Columbians sooner, easing some of the pressure on our strained housing market,” Kahlon said.
The BC Building Code, currently available only in print or PDF format, will undergo a digital transformation to enhance accessibility and usability for builders and building inspectors.
“Utilizing technology is vital to cutting wait times and making government more effective,” offered Ken Sim, mayor of Vancouver. “We are pleased to see these further efforts being made across the province.”
The digitally enhanced code will feature advanced functionalities that will facilitate faster and easier understanding and interpretation of information, and enable automation during the building permit review process.
“We don’t have time to waste when it comes to getting new housing on the market, so we need to look for efficiencies throughout the sector,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “That’s why we’re investing in new tools and technologies that will make it easier for homebuilders to focus on what they do best—build homes—and not worry about red tape.”
The building permitting process currently varies widely across local governments: some use digital tools and some rely on paper. The provincial government’s work to digitize the process will include working with local governments.
“Vancouver recently moved over to a fully digital permit system, where builders can apply, pay and receive their permit electronically through our ePlan system,” mayor Sim said. “Vancouver is proud to be a leading government in embracing technology, and we are excited to see other jurisdictions doing so as well.”
And to further bolster innovation in the housing construction sector, the Province of British Columbia is investing in Digital, formerly known as the Digital Technology Supercluster.
This organization, part of the federal Global Innovation Cluster network, has been granted $9 million over three years to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge technologies in the construction sector.
“Digital is proud to have the confidence of the Province of BC to deliver one of its key priorities in improving the productivity of the housing and construction sector and unlocking more housing for British Columbians,” stated Sue Paish, CEO, Digital.
Collaborating with various partners in industry, academia, and all levels of government, Digital will work towards creating digital solutions specifically tailored for the construction sector and piloting projects to test the efficacy of these solutions.
“The Province’s investments in digitizing the housing sector will make BC a North American leader in digital construction and permitting through the digitization of the building code and advancing the adoption of technologies that help the sector work more effectively with regulators,” said Paish.
As an independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in British Columbia, Digital focuses on the development, adoption, and deployment of Canadian-made digital technologies, utilizing a unique collaborative model that brings together small and medium-sized enterprises , multinationals, and academia.
“One of the core principles of the Stronger BC Economic Plan is embracing innovation to propel us forward,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “Utilizing the Digital Technology Cluster to develop a digital permitting pilot marries progressive thinking with much-needed efficiency in expediting decisions for the housing sector.”
This project builds on the government’s work to establish a single application portal for provincial housing permits and authorizations, which will go live by the end of 2023.
“We look forward to continuing our track record of results and making a difference in the lives of British Columbians,” Paish added.
Advancing digital permitting and construction is part of the Province’s new housing plan, Homes for People, which was announced on April 3.
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