Seismic Standard

This is a guide to the Seismic Standard (document available on the Real Property Services Publications page, accessible to Public Services and Procurement Canada employees only).

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The Public Services and Procurement Canada, Real Property Services (RPS) Seismic Standard addresses the issue of seismic (earthquake) resistance of new and existing buildings. The objective is to provide a consistent risk management approach. Note that the Seismic Standard, effective March 2, 2018, supersedes the 2001 RPS Policy Seismic Resistance of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) Buildings.


New buildings

New buildings shall be designed and constructed in accordance with the seismic requirements of the current National Building Code of Canada. Planned additions to existing buildings are considered to be under the category of new buildings.

Existing buildings

Seismic requirements for existing buildings undergoing significant projects are to be in compliance with this section

Significant projects (projets d’envergure) are projects in which any of the conditions noted below exist:

Note: When determining what constitutes a significant project, the long range plans for the asset must be reviewed in order to determine the most appropriate time to complete any necessary seismic upgrades (mid-life retrofit, major base building recapitalization). The replacement cost new of a building/asset/structure is the total cost of construction required to replace the subject building/asset/structure with a substitute of like or equal utility using current standards of materials and design that are built into codes.

(1) Seismic assessment

When significant projects are being planned for an existing building, a detailed seismic assessment to determine the building’s seismic resistance is mandatory, and must be conducted in the feasibility phase (identification stage) as defined by the National Project Management System (NPMS). Such work must be undertaken by a qualified professional engineer. Seismic resistance of the building shall be expressed as a percentage of the current National Building Code of Canada requirements for new buildings. For example, a seismic resistance of 0.60 would mean that the building’s seismic resistance is 60% of that for a new building.

Results of the detailed seismic assessment, such as the seismic resistance of a building’s structure, will determine if seismic upgrade is required.

The Seismic Standard outlines the minimum level of the seismic resistance (in terms of earthquake load factor) that a building must achieve. The required Minimum level of seismic resistance for existing buildings to satisfy life safety requirements (assuming National Building Code of Canada 2015 seismic loading requirements as the baseline) is to be determined through a risk-based approach taking into consideration of the following three factors:

The classification of consequences of failure is based on recent research conducted by the National Research Council (refer to Relevant Technical Documentation below). Definitions for quality of inspection and degree of redundancy are based on industry practice and Standard.

(2) Seismic upgrade approach

If the detailed seismic assessment indicates that the building structure’s seismic resistance is less than the minimum level required by the Seismic Standard, seismic upgrading is required. Minimum level of seismic resistance of a building, which is related to a building’s classification of consequences of failure, redundancy degree and quality of inspection, is outlined in the Seismic Standard.

Where a seismic upgrade is deemed necessary, the upgraded structure must have a seismic resistance that at least meets the minimum level as outlined in the Seismic Standard. However, consideration shall be given to upgrade the building to 100% of the National Building Code of Canada requirements. The optimum level of upgrade shall be selected based on a holistic review of financial, functional, operational, security, and client requirements, including a review of the Investment Analysis Report. A higher level of upgrading, beyond the minimum established in this Seismic Standard, shall be considered. This shall take into account factors such as future building use, seismic hazard, control of seismic damage to the building, post-disaster building use, heritage designation, and the cost differential for upgrading to a higher level versus the minimum.

Upgrade options for operational and functional components (OFCs) shall be considered. These include, but are not limited to, building components such as canopies over exit ways, partitions, roof parapets, mechanical and electrical systems, ceilings, and cladding. The level of seismic upgrading of the OFCs required is dependent on the performance objective selected for the asset, as defined in CAN/CSA-S832-14 Seismic Risk Reduction of Operational and Functional Components of Buildings; at a minimum, the life safety performance level shall be achieved. For an OFC with a high seismic risk rating as defined in CAN/CSA-S832, immediate mitigation intervention shall be considered.


This Seismic Standard applies to crown-owned buildings under the custodianship of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). External seismic hazards such as potential failure of service lifelines, ground failures outside the building, and business resumption after an earthquake are not addressed in the Seismic Standard.

Guidance, reporting and compliance

Relevant technical documentation

Consequences of failure criteria

A new classification of consequences of failure for existing buildings in terms of life safety was developed by the National Research Council (Identification of Consequences of Failure Criteria for Seismic Risk Management of Existing Buildings [2017], Client Report A1-011750 for PSPC) for various occupancies. The new classification consists of three classes, namely, Consequences Class Low (CC-L), Medium (CC-M) and High (CC-H). Definitions of the appropriate consequence class for the two most common building occupancies for PSPC, that is office buildings and public buildings (buildings to where the public are admitted), are given in the Seismic Standard. The National Research Council (NRC) document provides definitions of consequence class for other building occupancies.

Operational and functional components

Guidelines for the seismic risk reduction of OFCs, also known as non-structural building components (that is, building contents, bookcases, piping, light fixtures, etc.) are given in the CAN/CSA-S832-14 Seismic Risk Reduction of Operational and Functional Components of Buildings. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard provides information and methodology to identify and evaluate hazards caused by earthquake forces acting on OFCs and to undertake appropriate mitigation strategies and techniques.

Seismic screening and evaluation tools for existing buildings

PSPC has been working with the NRC to update the following seismic screening and seismic evaluation tools for the use on existing buildings.

These tools were developed by NRC, with support from PSPC, in the early 1990’s and are out of date. The planned timelines for the development of these tools are as follows:

  1. Preliminary Seismic Screening Tool—which can be used to identify those buildings that are exempt from further details screening (Tool #2 below) and evaluation on the basis of their low seismicity, good condition and age. (expected to be published by NRC in December 2019) 
  2. Semi-Quantitative Seismic Risk Screening Tool for Existing Buildings—which can be used, based on a semi-quantitative evaluation of risk index, as a prioritization tool for need for detailed evaluation using Tool #3. (expected to be published by NRC in December 2019)
  3. Seismic Evaluation Guide for Existing Buildings—which will include updated procedures for simple and detailed structural analysis to evaluate the seismic resistance and retrofit requirement of existing buildings. (FY 2021-2022)

Heritage masonry

PSPC is developing a new guideline to aid the seismic assessment of stone masonry structures. The main focus of the new guideline will be on strategies that can be used as a decision support tool for identification of the appropriate approach for the seismic assessment and upgrading of heritage masonry structures. The new guideline will also provide information on the general understanding of both the potential seismic deficiencies and the methods of seismic upgrading of stone masonry structures.


To obtain further information or to contact your regional representative, please contact

Associated documents

Public Services and Procurement Canada Standards

PSPC Real Property Services Seismic Standard

Code and Standards


National Research Council—Identification of Consequences of Failure Criteria for Seismic Risk Management of Existing Buildings (2017), Client Report A1-011750 for PSPC. Please contact for more information on this report.

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