Alternative solutions, formerly known as “equivalencies,” allow for flexibility in building construction. They provide your design team with a means to employ design methods that are different from the prescriptive Building Bylaw requirements.
Alternative solutions can apply to new construction or existing buildings and, effective June 22, 2015, can be applied for online.
Alternative solution submissions must demonstrate that the proposed approach provides an equal or better level of performance to the prescribed provisions in the Building Bylaw.
Alternative solution proposals or applications must be prepared by a professional architect or engineer registered in the Province of BC.
After a prolonged grace period to allow all practitioners to obtain their electronic seals and adapt to the practice of electronic submissions, we've moved into an acceptance of only electronically sealed and signed alternative solution applications. We no longer have the ability for off-site filing and storage of hard copies of alternative solution originals.
All alternative solution applications are stored only electronically and accordingly, these electronic records are the only authenticated documents maintained by the City and confirming City's reliance on Registered Professional's design in acceptance of the proposed alternative solution.
The City is here to help
For specific information about this process, call, email, or visit the Development and Building Services Centre. Our staff will help you determine which permits you need, and help navigate you through the process, so you can speak to your contractor with confidence.
An application should include whatever supporting documents your architect or engineer thinks are necessary to fully explain how:
- The project will differ from Building Bylaw requirements
- Their proposals will meet or exceed the bylaw requirement, including any relevant referenced studies or reports
If there are difficult issues relating to upgrades of an existing building, your architect or engineer can submit a request for “acceptance of existing condition with mitigating features” with their application.
For more information
- Alternative solutions proposals and acceptance of existing conditions with mitigating features (Bulletin 2000-063-AD, revised June 18, 2015) PDF file (135 KB)
- Alternative solution peer review guidelines (Bulletin 2002-007-BU, revised June 18, 2015) PDF file (103 KB)
- Alternative solutions intake and processing (Bulletin 2011-004-AD, revised June 18, 2015) PDF file (83 KB)
- Generic alternative solutions process for advanced use of the 2019 Vancouver Building By-law (Bulletin 2019-005, issued July 26, 2019) PDF file (108 KB)
Process and timeline
This procedure takes effect on June 22, 2015.
Alternative solutions will only be accepted through our online application portal. The system allows access to all your alternative solution requests in one place.
Follow these steps to apply for an alternative solution:
- Register for an online.
- Log into your account. Confirm the address and location of bylaw variances. Provide a brief project description. Make a separate application for each alternative solution (unless the solutions address related concerns).
- Provide the following with your application:
- A document reference
- Summary of requested deviation
- Summary of proposed solution with support documents
- Payment information
- The system will provide you with a summary of fees and an invoice for your application.
- Pay the application fees using the online system. Related alternative solutions may be applied for together for a reduced fee, subject to the approval of the chief building official.
- Your application will be reviewed by building policy engineers in the Office of the Chief Building Official. An engineer may contact you for more detail by email or phone.
- Track the status of your application online. If your application is approved, a building policy engineer will apply a Notarius seal to indicate approval and forward it to you for your reference.
Initial reviews take about four to six weeks, but can take longer depending on the complexity of your proposal and whether we need any additional information or feedback. Further reviews will vary in length based on how extensive the revisions were.