Building Permits Survey (BDP)

Detailed information for January 2008





Record number:


Results of this survey will enable Statistics Canada to estimate residential and non-residential construction activity at various geographical levels.

Data release - March 6, 2008


The monthly Building Permits Survey collects data on the value of permits issued by Canadian municipalities for both residential and non-residential buildings, and the number of residential dwellings authorized. The survey also measures the number of dwelling units demolished.

Building permit data are widely used as a leading indicator for the construction industry since the issuance of a building permit is one of the first steps in the construction process.

Statistics on building permits are essential inputs for the computation of residential building construction expenditures, the quarterly and annual estimates of net capital stock, and depreciation by component. They are also a major input in the computation of investment in non-residential building construction on a sub-annual basis.

In addition, the results of this survey are used by CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) as a reference frame for conducting a monthly survey of housing starts and completions in accordance with its mandate.

The statistics are used by a wide range of economists, construction industry analysts, housing market analysts and economic development officers across Canada.

Reference period: Month

Collection period: First 20 days following the end of the reference month


  • Construction
  • Construction materials
  • Non-residential building construction
  • Non-residential engineering construction
  • Residential construction

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The Building Permits Survey targets all Canadian municipalities that issue permits. At present, approximately 2,400 Canadian municipalities, representing all provinces and territories and encompassing 95% of the Canadian population, are covered by the survey. In practice, all population centres are represented in the survey, as well as a high percentage of rural municipalities. All of these municipalities are surveyed.

The municipalities comprising the remaining 5% are not included in the survey, and the figures are not adjusted to represent them. They make up very small portions of the population, and their construction activities have little impact on the total.

Non-responding municipalities that issue permits are contacted on a regular basis to respond to the survey.

Instrument design

The Building Permits Survey questionnaire was designed to capture the basic information included in permits issued by municipalities: permit number, type of project, type of work, value of the work, total building area and the addresses of the builder, the owner and the construction site. The questionnaire has not changed in recent years, since reports received from municipalities suggest that the kind of information included in permits is the same as the kind of information requested in the questionnaire.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The survey is usually conducted by mail, but a number of municipalities are now choosing to forward their reports electronically. A few municipalities are opting to respond by telephone. The municipal officer responsible for issuing permits is asked to complete a form each month describing all major construction projects. A set of six questionnaires and envelopes is sent out at the respondent's request. Respondents are asked to return the report no later than 10 days after the end of the month. Beginning on the 11th day, non-reporting municipalities are contacted by telephone. The calls continue until the end of the collection period. Non-reporting municipalities are called at least three times.

In the last week of each month, municipalities that have failed to file their reports for a number of months in the year are contacted in an effort to obtain the missing reports.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

Most reporting and data entry errors are corrected through automated data capture and complex data review procedures. Strict quality control procedures are applied to ensure that collection, coding and data processing are as accurate as possible. Checks are also performed on totals and the magnitude of data. Reports that fail to meet the quality standards are subject to verification and are corrected as required. The fact that building permit data are extracted from municipal administrative documents and that a growing number of municipalities are producing computerized reports substantially lowers the risk of reporting errors.


Data are imputed for municipalities that fail to send in their reports for the current period. The data are calculated automatically, subject to certain constraints, by applying the month-to-month and year-to-year variations in similar values of responding municipalities and the historical pattern of the missing municipalities to the previously used values. At the end of the year, the imputed values are replaced with actual data received from late-reporting municipalities and final estimates are produced. If the actual data are not received, current values that have been imputed are assigned a value of 0 to replace the imputed data.

When partial survey data are received (for example, the value of a project is missing), the missing characteristics are imputed on the basis of the average values for similar projects in the municipality's area.

No adjustment is made for permit undervaluation or for failure to apply for a permit for construction work.

Quality evaluation

The initial purpose of the Building Permits Survey is to collect information about construction intentions. The data and trends from the survey are periodically compared with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation data on housing starts, and Public and Private Investment Survey data for the non-residential sector. In addition, a number of municipalities publish their own figures for the value of building permits issued. Those figures are compared with the results of the Building Permits Survey. The comparisons are used to assess the quality and consistency of the data series.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Since January 2007, seasonal adjustment has been performed by the X12-ARIMA method. However, the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasonnally adjusted data have been revised with X12-ARIMA. Seasonally adjusted data for the total number of housing units and the aggregate value of building permits are obtained indirectly, i.e., by adding up their seasonally adjusted components. The total number of dwelling units is obtained by summing the seasonally adjusted data for single-family and multiple units. The total value of building permits is obtained by summing the following elements: residential, industrial, commercial and institutional. Some series contain no apparent seasonality. In these cases, unadjusted values have been tabulated and aggregated to the adjusted values of the other series. At the end of the year, the seasonally adjusted time series are revised to take into account the most recent seasonal fluctuations. Usually, only the last three years are subjected to this revision process.

Data accuracy

In the last years more then 99.0% of the municipalities covered by the survey filed their monthly reports for the Building Permits Survey. The average monthly revision rate over the last few years has been 0.1%.

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