A recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia clarifies the relevance of the requirements of the Architects Act to the issuance of building permits by municipalities.
In The Architectural Institute of British Columbia v. Langford (City), 2020 BCSC 801, the Court held that the chief building inspector for the City of Langford (the “City”) acted unreasonably in issuing a building permit given the complexity of the building and the constraints imposed by the City’s Building Bylaw and the Architects Act.
In 2016, the chief building inspector of the City issued a building permit for the construction of a residential and commercial strata complex in the City (the “Project”). The design and construction of the Project, which was completed in 2017, did not involve an architect. The Project was designed, and drawings were completed, by a designer.
There was no dispute that the Architects Act required the involvement of an architect for the Project and that there was no such architect involved. The Project did not fall within the exceptions where the absence of an architect would be allowed pursuant to section 60 of the Architects Act.
The Architectural Institute of British Columbia, the professional body that regulates the profession of architecture in British Columbia pursuant to the Architects Act, sought judicial review of the City’s decision to issue a building permit for the Project pursuant to the City’s Building Bylaw.
The City conceded that the Architects Act is an “enactment respecting health or safety” and as such the Building Bylaw permitted the City to refuse to issue a building permit where the proposed work does not comply with a statute respecting health or safety. However, the City argued that the authority from the Building Bylaw is discretionary and the City is not required to take the Architects Act into account when considering the issuance of building permits under the Building Bylaw. When considering building permit applications, the City took the position that it was sufficient for the City to only review whether an application was compliant with the BC Building Code.
The Court’s Decision
The Court found that the City’s decision to issue the building permit was unreasonable. Under the Building Bylaw, the City had the discretion to refuse to issue any permit where the proposed work did not comply with any enactment respecting health or safety. The Court held that this discretionary authority did not allow the City to issue the building permit for the Project without considering the Architects Act, a statute respecting health or safety, and the City’s decision to issue the building permit was therefore unreasonable.
The Court issued a declaration that the decision of the City’s chief building inspector to issue a building permit for the Project was unreasonable.
Although the Project was already completed, the Court’s declaration provides guidance to municipalities in exercising their permitting powers. It also indicates that building project proponents should be cognizant of the requirements of the Architects Act when submitting plans for municipal approval, as non-compliance with the Architects Act may lead to a denial of the permit.