Standards and Codes

Standards and codes canadian standards association building code electrical code occupational health and safety plumbing code electrical systems energy code



What are Standards & Codes?

A standard is a document that provides engineering or technical requirements for products, practices, methods or operations for different fields. The purpose of developing and adhering to standards is to ensure minimum performance, meet safety requirements, make sure that the product/system/process is consistent and repeatable, and provide for interfacing with other standard-compliant equipment.  Since standards are easy to recognize and reference, they help organizations ensure that their products or services can be manufactured, implemented and sold around the world.

An example of a standard is 802.3 - 2015 - IEEE Standard for Ethernet


Standards Council of Canada. (2019). Introduction to standards and the standards council of canada, Retrieved from

The American Society for Nondestructive Testing. (2017). Codes and standards overview, Retrieved from


Standards can be either voluntary or mandatory:

  • Standards are voluntary when organizations are not legally required to follow them. However, they may choose to follow them to meet industry demands.
  • Standards are mandatory when they are enforced by laws or regulations.

There are types of standards:

  • Performance standards test products by simulating their performance under actual service conditions.
  • Prescriptive standards identify product characteristics, such as material thickness, type and dimension.
  • Design standards identify specific design or technical characteristics of a product.
  • Management system standards define and establish an organization’s quality policy and objective.
  • Service standards specify the requirements that are to be fulfilled by a service and establish its fitness for purpose. Service standards may be prepared in fields such as  transportation,  telecommunications, trading, and banking.


Standards Council of Canada. (2019). Types of standards, Retrieved from

This video by the Canadian Standards Association Group (CSA) discusses how standards are developed and published in Canada.  Standards, in general, impact our products and services by reducing injury, improving performance and protecting the environment.  Individuals or organizations identify a need for a product or process to be produced or performed in a repeatable and regular manner and then submit a proposal to the CSA for consideration.  The CSA, which is an independent, non-governmental organization, reviews the proposal and if approved, form of committee of volunteer members with expertise in the area to create and publish the standard.  Standards are reviewed every five years to ensure they are current and reflect the latest trends and technologies.

CSA Group Standard Development
View CSA Group Standard Development on Youtube


Standards are at work in nearly every aspect of our lives. They impact many of the products and services we use: helping to reduce the risk of injury, improved performance, design safer infrastructure, even increased energy efficiency and protect the environment. But how are CSA Group standards developed?

The process starts when a person or organization identifies the need for a product or process to be produced or performed in a regular and repeatable manner and submits a proposal to CSA group for consideration. CSA group reviews the proposal, and if approved, forms a committee of volunteer members to determine how a product is to be used, how a process is to be implemented, or how a service is to be performed.

Committees are formed using a balanced matrix approach with representatives contributing points of view from various interest groups and stakeholders. With the committee's input captured, a draft document is created and is then offered for public review and comment following a rigorous accredited process. Once CSA group receives and processes all the input, the standards document is revised as necessary and published and may also be translated.

A standard is a living document and is reviewed every 5 years to ensure that it is still relevant and addresses changes in accepted best practices, technology or other factors. CSA Group is an independent non-government organization and therefore compliance with standards is voluntary. It is up to governments and authorities having jurisdiction to decide to reference specific CSA group standards and legislation and make them mandatory, while associations across North America and internationally may adopt CSA standards as best practices.

CSA Group develops and maintains more than 3000 standards and codes for use in both the U.S. and Canada in over 50 subject areas. We also work closely with other SDO's around the world such as the International Organization for Standardization to help promote harmonized standards that impact the global market. We are CSA Group, offering you the solutions you need in today's world and the guidance you'll need for tomorrow.

A code is a standard that has been enacted into law by local, regional, or national authorities having jurisdiction so that people like engineers or building contractors are legally compelled to comply with a code. The code may be an industry or government based standard.  An example of a code in Ontario is the Ontario Building Code.

There are codes and national model codes in Canada. The intent of a model code is to have an industry-wide standard that can be adopted and customized by local jurisdictions.The National Model Construction Codes are now collectively called Codes Canada. Under Canada's constitution, provinces and territories regulate the design and construction of new houses and buildings, and the maintenance and operation of fire safety systems in buildings. While the national model codes (Building, Fire, Plumbing, Energy Codes) are prepared centrally under the direction of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, adoption and enforcement of the Codes are the responsibility of the provinces and territories who have jurisdiction.



Consulting - Specifying Engineer. (2019). Code or standard? Retrieved from

National Research Council Canada. (2019). Model code adoption across canada, Retrieved from



Provinces and territories that adopt or adapt the national model codes

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Province-wide adoption of the National Building Code, National Fire Code and National Plumbing Code with some modifications and additions.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Province-wide adoption of the National Fire Code and the National Building Code, except aspects pertaining to means of egress and to one- and two-family dwellings within Group C in Part 9. No province-wide plumbing code.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon

Territory-wide adoption of the National Building Code and National Fire Code with some modifications and additions. Yukon adopts the National Plumbing Code.

Prince Edward Island

Province-wide adoption of the National Plumbing Code. Province-wide fire code not based on the National Fire Code. Major municipalities adopt the National Building Code.




Provinces that publish their own codes based on the national model codes

Alberta and British Columbia

Province-wide building, fire, and plumbing codes that are substantially the same as the national models with variations that are primarily additions.


Province-wide building, fire and plumbing codes based on the national models, but with significant variations in content and scope. The Ontario Fire Code, in particular, is significantly different from the National Fire Code. Ontario also references the National Energy Code for Buildings in its building code.


Province-wide building and plumbing codes that are substantially the same as the National Building Code and National Plumbing Code, but with variations that are primarily additions. Major municipalities adopt the National Fire Code.




Model that is adaptable by law

Set of technical definitions, specifications, and guidelines

Clarifies what needs to be done

Clarifies how something should be done

Can be adopted into law

Is not legalized

Examples include International Building Code and ASME Boiler and Vessel Code

Examples include ASTM International Standards and ISO standard Difference between code and standard. Retrieved from

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