NO MINIMUM!!!!

Here is a sweet little business set up in an alley in the arts district in Saskatoon.  An absolutely right sized spot isn't it?

Here is a sweet little business set up in an alley in the arts district in Saskatoon. An absolutely right sized spot isn’t it?

After a recent trip to Saskatoon, a community filled with tiny and little houses, I called the City of Saskatoon, Planning and Building Department.  I asked if there was a minimum size requirement in Saskatoon.  Apparently there is not because they said they did not think that there was a minimum size restriction in the National Building code.  This is the code that Saskatoon uses.

After speaking with three people on the phone, I wrote to the Canadian Code Centre (a couple of times before I got the straight to this question):

What is the minimum size of a house in the National Building Code?
Here is the response I got:   ((((I will comment on this after the letter below))))

____________________________________

Dear Ms. Moreland

 The National Building Code (NBC) does not regulate a minimum size for buildings in the body of the code. Whether a permit is required or not for a building is an administrative requirement, for which each province and territory has detailed requirements (and – which may differ from province to province).

 The National Building Code only contains a few (model) administrative requirements for provinces or territories, should they wish to use them in enforcing and administering their code. Within these model requirements (located in Division C of the NBC) is a reference to a document “Administrative Requirements for Use with the NBC 1985”, which in turn suggests that an exemption for permits would be appropriate if buildings are smaller than 10m² (108 ft²).

This exemption is based on the assumption that such small buildings would be accessory buildings and that there is only 1 such accessory building per primary building. In addition, the 1985 document states that the exemption for small buildings is not intended to waive the safety and health requirements for a series or group of such buildings. This likely means that an authority having jurisdiction (city or municipality) would not use this exemption where people intended to live in such small houses.

In addition, staff at the Canadian Codes Centre are not aware of a study or research report that contains a clear-cut, definitive answer as to whether there is a legal or safe minimum size for a permanent dwelling.

The views expressed in this letter are those of the staff of the Canadian Codes Centre of the National Research Council who assist the Committees which are responsible for the preparation of the National Building, Plumbing and Fire Codes. These views should not be considered as official interpretations of legislated requirements based on the National Building and Fire Codes of Canada because the final responsibility for an official interpretation rests with the authority having jurisdiction.

Kind Regards

Frank Lohmann,
Senior Technical Advisor, Housing and Small Buildings  (NBC Part 9)

NRC Construction
Canadian Codes Centre
1200 Montreal Road Building M23a
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0R6

http://www.nationalcodes.ca

_________________________________________

What I get from this letter is that it is as I previously understood.  There is NO minimum house size in Canadian code!

So, it is therefore up to we Tiny Housers and Tiny House enthusiasts to educate our municipalities and local government to the benefits of tiny living so that we can have these changes in code made to all locals.  We must lobby, speak to elected officials, educate those who are on the election trail and keep making our voices heard if we want to see tiny houses available in communities across this nation.

What I am asking is that anyone who is interested in this lifestyle please take a few moments and write letters to the elected officials in your community.  Copy the building department as well.  If we all lobby together there will be change, community by community.

ALSO, FYI… Here is a story on the awesome community that  opened my eyes a little more; Saskatoon.

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Categories: Building code, Environmentalism, Money, Tiny House Ontario, View, Writing | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “NO MINIMUM!!!!

  1. Hey do you know anyone in Saskatoon that I can ask questions to? it is so hard to find help here.

    • What do you need help with?

      • Just figuring things out. I am not very good at explaining things through writing and it would help if there was someone near by that could answer questions about what I could do out here.

      • I was just out in Saskatoon and wrote an article about the Alphabet area of town. Here is the link. http://tinyhouselistings.com/alphabet-soup/

        If I knew what you wanted to know I might be able to help you. I can’t refer you if I don’t know what your needs are.

  2. Hey everyone.. Long time tiny house fan, finally in the buyers market. I’m going to a workshop run by Tumbleweed in Toronto at the end of May. It seems to be the only one I could find of its kind. I’m well armed with dozens of zoning questions. If anyone has anything they’d like me to ask, please reply here. I was originally into the loft-less Tumbleweed model, but I’m more now into the Minum house. Google it, it’s pretty sweet and feels quite large.

    • Hi J,
      Glad you are finally at the point where you can take the leap. I like the minim house, but I would adapt it for Canadian climates by overhanging the roof at least 3 inches. We have a lot of freeze thaw, freeze thaw and this little bit of overhang will protect the place where your walls meet your roof. I also like a separate bedroom, mostly because I am lazy and I don’t want to have to tuck away all my bedding and pillows every day only to take them out again at night. Problem is, I also don’t like the tiny little lofts in the traditional tiny houses on wheels. For me, if I was going on wheels I would build a little bigger, put a bedroom on one end and a kitchen and bathroom on the other.
      Of course, we all live differently. I think it all depends on your living habits and knowing your own.

  3. Anonymous

    We are significantly downsizing in terms of work and residence and one of the places we are considering moving (currently living in Cape Breton) is Kingston. What is the climate for tiny houses on wheels such as a Tumbleweed? It seems as though you have done quite a bit of research and are grounded in this place. We would love to contact you with further questions.

    • Here are the weather averages for Kingston area. http://weatherspark.com/averages/28250/Kingston-Ontario-Canada
      I think any of the houses on wheels will be similar to living in a trailer in the winter, so it is important to insulate them well. I also a big proponent of putting straw bales under them for the winter in order to maintain your temperature.

      You are right, I have done about 4 years of it, almost constantly. I can be reached here just as you already did, by leaving a comment. Or on the Tiny House Ontario Facebook page.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for your quick response Laura. We have done some searching about the Tumbleweeds in cold climates…which Kingston clearly is. We are also wondering about whether there is openness in terms of zoning. Are people able to live in houses on wheels in the Kingston area on a piece of land without septic or connections to city water?

      • As far as I know there is no place in the Kingston area where you can live in a tiny house on wheels. Here you can’t even park an RV on land which does not already have a house on it. This said, there are no tiny houses that I know of that are 100% legal with the exception of Dee Williams house. She was able to get zoning approved by the building department there. As for Tiny House Ontario… I sit in a kind of limbo… I built under building code (which is a 108 square foot footprint) but I do not have a permit and this means that I cannot live there… I can only visit… and also that if the building inspectors change the attitude can change.

  4. Hannah

    I think that Ontario has its own regulations re: building code.

    • Hi Hannah, you are both correct and incorrect. All of the municipalities in the provinces and territories in Canada use the National building code as the basis for their own. What I mean is that the codes are not Ontario based, but rather they are absolutely left to the discretion of the city or county government.
      Every county is different from the one beside it because the local government in each has the ability to change what they wish to. A few places, like Saskatoon, use the National building code which they have not changed to suit their own purposes.
      What I mean is that if a county is prone to flooding, they may wish to make extra rules about the depth of a basement or how close to the water you may build. It is a reasonably good system because it is flexible. The problem comes when a particular government comes into power in an area and decides that houses that are HUGE are welcome to be built because they want to discourage poor people from owning homes or living in their area. What they don’t realize is that the lower housing costs are, the more people have to spend in the community. These big houses suburban houses are, unfortunately not surrounded by great restaurants, cafes, movie houses, and art galleries because a lot of people who live in those houses are so “house poor” that they cannot afford to go out to dinner and a movie.

  5. Susan Arscott

    hey Sue here from Oakville! Did you ever find out the MPAC results from their visit? or nothing yet?

    • I have not heard a thing. The tax bill comes in March so we will see if the structure makes any difference in the tax bill.

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