The role of standards in adapting Canada’s infrastructure to the impacts of climate change


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This report is intended to provoke further thought and dialogue amongst policy-makers and practitioners on the role that codes and standards play in moving climate change adaptation solutions into mainstream practice. It describes their relationship to the design and operation of infrastructure works, and their influence upon climate change adaptation issues. It also underscores the importance of outreach strategies aimed at standards organizations and, suggests practical tools for outreach implementation.

Although often invisible to the public, standards affect safety, performance, environment, economics and service levels – they have a profound impact on Canada's diverse range of infrastructure systems.

The issues are broad and complex, as are the range of strategies that are evolving for effective adaptation. Furthermore, no single organization or authority has jurisdiction for all categories of infrastructure or all regions.

The discussion focuses on climate-sensitive, built infrastructure, with a particular emphasis on the role of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in developing infrastructure standards. Various elements and perspectives are used to describe the issues related to climate change impacts and how these affect Canada’s infrastructure systems. Each section of the report is written as a somewhat self-contained area of discussion.

This report was prepared by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), an independent, nongovernment, and not-for-profit organization with financial support from the Impacts and Adaptation Directorate, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

NRCan’s Impacts and Adaptation Directorate has an important role in policy development and the prioritization of impacts and adaptation issues. This directorate is helping a growing number of stakeholders identify appropriate paths for adaptation in their respective fields. The Directorate co-ordinates the development of the National Climate Change Adaptation Framework and is an essential catalyst for research and knowledge sharing.

CSA has a long history of involvement in Canada’s infrastructure and its built environment. As the largest standards developer in Canada, CSA manages more than 2,600 national standards and a broad range of subjects related to infrastructure including:

  • Electrical transmission;
  • Oil and gas transmission;
  • Appliance installation codes;
  • Energy production, such as offshore structures and nuclear power plants;
  • Plumbing, drinking water, and wastewater systems and components;
  • Building envelope science, mechanical and electrical systems;
  • Transportation and communication structures, such as bridges and towers;
  • Construction equipment, processes and materials;
  • Design and testing of materials and systems;
  • Occupational health and safety.

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