Forest communities will see more jobs and opportunity from B.C.’s proactive adoption of building code changes that allow the safe construction of taller wood buildings.
“Companies like Structurlam are leading the way with innovative engineered wood products that create jobs in the forest sector and opportunity for people in communities throughout B.C.,” said Premier John Horgan. “Changes to the national building code that allow for taller wood buildings take effect next year, but we’re not waiting to get started. Our government is ready to work with communities to build safe, secure and green tall wood buildings that will create jobs, grow B.C.’s value-added sector and realize our low-carbon future.”
Eligible local governments throughout B.C. are invited to become early adopters of mass-timber technology for construction of buildings up to 12 storeys, up from the current allowance of six storeys.
A mass timber building is one where the primary load-bearing structure is made of either solid or engineered wood. Encapsulated mass timber is where the mass timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.
“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The faster we can deliver the homes that people need, the better for communities right across B.C.”
Mass timber buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection. Studies have shown the environmental benefits of using mass timber. The estimated carbon benefit from the wood used in the Brock Commons building was equivalent to taking 511 cars off the road for a year. The development of innovative and cost-effective low-carbon building solutions — like construction using mass timber technology — supports government’s CleanBC goal of making every building more efficient, while creating more jobs and economic opportunities for people, businesses and communities.
The federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys, and will be reflected in the next edition of the BC Building Code. The technology has been reviewed by the National Building Code committees, as well as by experts such as fire safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists and builders.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing staff will contact local governments with a request for expressions of interest and detailing the next steps for any local governments interested in this voluntary program.
Creating jobs, acting on climate change and building a sustainable economy are shared priorities with the BC Green Party caucus and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development —
“Today’s announcement acts directly on my mandate letter commitment to expand B.C.’s innovative wood-products sector and will help create more jobs and new markets for B.C. wood products.”
Hardy Wentzel, chief executive officer, Structurlam —
"Structurlam is proud to be a leader in the North American mass timber industry. We're thrilled to be providing a sustainable and innovative construction solution and setting the bar for quality in an industry that is reshaping skylines. The building code changes announced at our flagship Structurlam facility in Penticton today will further support our ability to fuel the economy and create jobs through mass timber.”
Lynn Embury-Williams, executive director, Canadian Wood Council/Wood WORKS! BC —
“Wood WORKS! BC is proud to support the Government of B.C. as it moves forward and provides early opportunities for municipalities to build taller and faster, using wood. We look forward to assisting those municipalities and project teams requiring information and support to move ahead with this exciting opportunity.”
Gord Ditchburn, president, B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA) —
“B.C. firefighters are pleased to welcome the great potential that mass engineered timber construction will bring to our province. We support a building code process that balances the efficiencies and progress of industry with the needs of public safety and first responders. Wise decision-making means having everyone at the table and the BCPFFA has appreciated being involved. Including firefighter safety as an objective of the 2020 National Building Code is imperative to maintaining this balance.”
- Any local government currently regulated under the BC Building Code is eligible, provided:
- there is city council support for the initiative;
- the planning, building and fire departments are supportive of participating in the process;
- the lead building official holds a Level 3 Certification from the Building Officials’ Association of BC; and
- the jurisdiction’s land-use bylaws support buildings greater than six storeys in height.
- B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass-timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code through a jurisdiction-specific regulation.
- Mass timber buildings meet or exceed performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.
- Other benefits to using mass timber construction include reduced traffic to a site, reduced waste and reduced noise during construction.
- British Columbia is already home to Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia, which was the world’s tallest mass-timber building when it opened in 2017, and the Wood Innovation Design Centre in Prince George.
- Compared to other materials, wood is a more environmentally friendly option, potentially reducing the carbon footprint in construction when sourced from sustainably managed forests.
- The CleanBC plan was developed as a pathway to achieve the Province’s legislated climate targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by the year 2030.
- The Province’s Wood First Program encourages innovation through value-added wood products, helping to grow local and global markets, while promoting climate-friendly construction and supporting B.C.’s forest-dependent communities.