Professional Building Inspections (PBI) on tiny homes/small homes

Professional Building Inspectors Inc. (PBI) is a private company providing inspection services to municipalities to enforce the Construction Code Act of Saskatchewan. Baker said he wouldn’t use the term tiny home because it’s not in the code. “If it meets the requirements of a dwelling, it’s a dwelling.”

“The building code doesn’t actually have a minimum square footage, at all.” He said that most of the time, square footage comes into the Planning and Development Act under the Zoning bylaw. He said he is not an expert in zoning and only has opinions. “It is always interesting to have a municipality try to have their zoning/development bylaws be in conformance with the Building Code, however, every 5 years the NRC (National Research Council) releases a new version of the Building Code that could change development requirements. I always say the municipality should have a zoning bylaw that works and the building code will figure it out!”

“The only thing that happens in the building code is as soon as we have a ‘tiny home’ that has either a basement underneath it or a second story.. that’s where it gets tricky is the stairs. You can’t meet the stair requirements because they take up so much space.”

He said a loft is considered a second story, and there are other requirements, such as height. Recently, PBI had a proposed dwelling with a loft, exterior deck, and exterior stairs that went up to the second story. “When we went through the building code it appeared to meet. So we allowed it.” He said there could also be other stairs, but one needs to meet code requirements.

Baker said it’s a challenge when designing small dwellings to conform with code and supplied some additional information-

Baker said that the Building Code is prescriptive in nature but sees possible wiggle room for small dwellings, “there is always an option for an owner/designer to do an alternative compliance for a project and show that the building will still meet the intent of the building code that a Building Official can accept.” He said these alternative solutions must be completed by engineers/architects and come at a cost.

For people considering building a “tiny home,” he said the first step is to talk to the municipality because development approval is the first step. Then “find a designer and talk to your building official. That way your designer and your building official are talking and anything that’s coming up they can have those discussions before you apply for a permit, spend all this money on all these designs and then not be able to get your go ahead.”

Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times