Building tall structures with wood is a practice that’s gaining popularity in the building trades industry, and now B.C. is paving the way with changes to the provincial building code.
B.C. Premier John Horgan was in Okanagan Falls near Penticton on Wednesday to announce changes to regulations that will allow the construction of taller wooden buildings.
“B.C. will be the first province in Canada to allow the construction of tall wood buildings up to 12 storeys, which will mean that we are ahead of the National Building Code,” Horgan said at a news conference.
WATCH (Aired Feb. 16, 2019): Canada leading the way in tall wood building construction
A wide array of taller, larger modern structures made of wood has been built in North America over the past 10 years.
Innovative techniques allow several pieces of wood to essentially be glued together under pressure, creating one super-strong piece of wood that can hold more weight than ever before.
This new wood product is called mass timber, which is assembled and built in a factory and then brought to the construction site to be assembled like LEGO.
The biggest hindrance to mass timber construction is the current building codes.
There is fear that tall wooden structures are a fire hazard and pose a risk to public safety.
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But experts say research shows wooden buildings are safe, and Horgan agrees.
“I understand the concerns of communities, particularly volunteer-based fire crews who may not have the equipment to manage a six-storey fire,” he said.
“When you’re going beyond the capacity of local firefighters, you want to make sure that the product is safe and that there are factors in place to ensure that fire is not going to be an issue.”
Tall wooden buildings are also considered a sustainable building method as their construction reduces the heavy carbon footprint of concrete and steel construction.
“It’s cost-effective, it’s environmentally sensitive and it’s putting British Columbians to work with a British Columbia product,” Horgan said.
The B.C. government says the federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys.
“We’re not waiting for the rest of the country to get here. We already know that the product we are building or creating here is fire-resistant. We know that we can build faster and we know that it is better for the environment,” Horgan said.
Horgan made the announcement at the Structurlam production facility in Okanagan Falls.
The Okanagan-based company is responsible for innovative projects like UBC’s Brock Commons student residence — the world’s tallest wooden building at 18 storeys.