Accredited – What does it mean?

People living and working in the smaller rural communities across Alberta are likely going to need to know, at some point, whether the community that they live in is accredited. If you’ve never renovated your house or built something that is required to have a permit taken out, you’re probably going to ask “what is accredited?” In the construction industry, and specifically in construction permitting, whether or not the municipality where the work is being done is accredited by the Province is just about the first thing you’ll need to know before you can get a permit for the work. The reason is, if your community is accredited under the Safety Codes Act, then they can issue your construction permit, if they aren’t accredited then you will need to check with the Province at Municipal Affairs to find out where to get your construction permits. Corporations can also become accredited, which is important for contractors to know when they’re doing work for a corporation.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that Accredit, “means: to give official authorization of, or, to recognize or vouch for as conforming with a standard”.

In the context of whether or not your municipality is accredited, it has to do with whether the Province, through the Safety Codes Council, has authorized the municipality to issue construction permits and have their safety codes officers inspect the work, this is also the case for a corporation. The power to grant accreditation is given to the Province through the Safety Codes Act, which is the regulation that brings into law the various construction codes and standards that all construction, and the equipment and materials used, has to comply with. When the Province designates a body as being accredited, they are accredited to administer all or part of the Safety Codes Act within their boundaries.

There are about 355 recognized municipalities in the province of Alberta and every municipality and corporation in Alberta has the opportunity to become accredited, if they choose. Municipalities also have the option of creating alliances with other nearby municipalities to act jointly as a single accredited “Regional Services Commission” to combine their resources and make it more affordable to meet the responsibilities of accreditation. The decision to become accredited isn’t to be taken lightly. Accreditation carries with it a burden of responsibility. An accredited municipality must maintain accurate records of permits, inspections, approval of variances, issue orders for compliance, provide for safety codes officers to perform inspections, and participate in periodic audits to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Safety Codes Act, just to mention some of their responsibilities. Some of the benefits of being an accredited municipality are that the municipal planners have a greater level of control over the construction projects within their boundaries, the money for permits stays within the local community, and the work needed to support the permitting system often employs a number of local residents, all of which supports the local economy. For corporations the responsibilities and benefits are very similar to those of a municipality, in that they regain some level of control over the inspections process and no longer have to wait for a municipality to give them permission to begin work, they also often pay lower fees to have their work inspected.

Knowing whether or not you live in an accredited municipality or work for an accredited corporation, is one of the first things that you’ll want to know if you’re planning to do any work where a permit is required by the Safety Codes Act. Having this knowledge helps by directing you to the resources where you can ask someone if the work you’re planning needs to be permitted. If you live in an accredited municipality you can simply call or email your municipal administration offices to find out who or where to go to get permit information. You can also go to the Alberta Municipal Affairs website, http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/cp_permit_information for information about permitting and which municipalities are accredited and which aren’t. In the case of a corporation, you’ll most likely be told what the procedures are before you start the work.

Arguably, the most beneficial aspect of the accreditation option in the Safety Codes Act is to be able to maintain a greater level of control over who is performing the inspections on the work and to what level of service you want to receive from the safety codes officers, as long as they meet the prescribed minimum level of service. Accreditation of municipalities and corporations also serves the Provincial government by sharing the cost of permits and inspections so the costs aren’t borne by a single level of government and decisions governing staffing levels and local needs are made at a local level by local people. Having this framework governed by an overarching government regulation helps to keep a certain amount of consistency from region to region with only minor local nuances and differences.

Hopefully, now when you need to know where to go to get a permit for a construction project you’ll know to find out whether the municipality or corporation is accredited under the Safety Codes Act.

By

Blake Allen

SCO, Marex Canada Limited