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National Building Code

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Code Adoptions in Canada Provide More Design Freedom for Guardrails - Climbability restrictions removed, and horizontal elements allowed up to 4.2m height.

Did You Know Horizontal Railing is Code Approved in Canada?

The adoption of the National Building Code (NBC) 2015 by many Canadian provinces has changed the restrictions for guard design.

The key benefit for architects, designers, builders, and homeowners is that they now have a more comprehensive selection of products to incorporate into their railing designs. Horizontal railing and ornamental guardrail designs are easily adapted to the new requirements. Canadians can now install horizontal lengthscross tube or rod railing and cable railing on decks, stairs and railings. Change, in this case, is a very good thing.

The Facts

For guardrail design, refer to Article Design of Guards to Not Facilitate Climbing, as cited below.        Design of Guards to Not Facilitate Climbing

1. Except for guards in industrial occupancies, guards required by Article that protect a level located more than 4.2 m above the adjacent level shall be designed so that no member, attachment or opening located between 140 mm and 900 mm above the level protected by the guard facilitates climbing. (See note A-

Horizontal guard infill including cable railing is now approved in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon. Read more and find links to provincial codes under: Provincial & Territory Code Adoptions.

Learn more about the rationale for these code changes, what the research revealed and Bezdan’s role in the code changes. Read article.


Code Adoption for Horizontal Railing in Manitoba

Manitoba has adopted the National Building Code articles pertaining to guard requirements and climbability as of January 1st, 2024. The new code allows for greater design freedom for guard infill, which means Manitobans can now explore and enjoy a larger world of guardrail design choices, including horizontal railing.
Refer to the Manitoba Building Code.

NBC 2020 & 2015 Adoptions

Articles,, and for Guards were updated in the NBC to allow for the use of horizontal guard infill. These changes became effective with the release of NBC 2015. NBC 2020 is the current code in circulation. Provinces and territories have differing schedules for adopting NBC articles as indicated below. Follow the links for additional information on provincial or territory building codes.

The National Building Code of Canada (NBC) is the model building code of Canada. It is issued by the National Research Council of Canada. Provinces and territories consider and generally adopt the NBC, and they can also make substantive variations to it. This has resulted in a patchwork of provincial/territorial approaches to Construction Codes. When beginning construction on a new building or doing renovations on an existing structure, it is important to be familiar with the regulations that apply in your jurisdiction. Always consult with your local building department to ensure proper compliance before starting your project.

Codes Harmonization

The Canadian Free Trade Agreement’s (CFTA’s) Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table (RCT) is working to improve the regulatory environment in Canada. Starting with NBC 2015, provinces and territories have agreed to improve harmonization with the NBC by reducing or eliminating variations in the technical requirements of Construction Codes. These are essential steps in reducing construction costs and trade barriers.


Ontario Building Code

In November 2021, Bezdan contacted industry professionals to support harmonizing the Ontario Building Code (OBC) with the National Building Code 2015 (NBC) for guards. This would have permitted horizontal elements like cable rail in guard design.



The province of Ontario decided not to harmonize with the last round of changes to the OBC in early 2022. Bezdan and industry partners were disappointed with this decision. Bezdan continues to take steps to lift the restrictions and will be applying to Minister Steve Clark to make this necessary change on behalf of all Ontarians.

Refer to  Provincial & Territorial Code Adoptions for links to all other provincial and territory building codes. Find your local authority in Canada.

The provision to limit climbing introduced in the NBC in 1975 was not backed by any documented injury related to climbable guards. These provisions were unnecessarily restrictive, negatively impacting the ornamental guard industry and design freedom in Canada. With a lack of evidence to support these restrictions, Bezdan, along with industry proponents, pursued the change reflected in NBC 2015.


It took nearly eight years of comprehensive and diligent voluntary effort by industry proponents to realize a consensus-based code change. The new code allows for greater design freedom for guard infill, which means a whole new world of guardrail design options. Learn more about the rationale for these code changes and what the research revealed. Read article.


NBC 2015 Articles 


NBC 2015 Rationale

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