Twelve-storey wood towers approved
March 21, 2019
Six-storey condo tower in Vancouver by Adera Development.
British Columbia is doubling the height limit for wood buildings to 12 storeys in a bid to increase timber production and sales in the province’s key forest industry.
Premier John Horgan said B.C.’s change in its building code will be followed by similar amendment to the national building code expected next year.
"We're not waiting for the rest of the country to get here," said Horgan. "We already know that the product we're building, that we're creating here, is fire resistant. We know that we can build faster and we know it's better for the environment."
He said he expects local governments and First Nations to approve more wood buildings for family apartments, student residences and business locations. The construction of six-storey wood buildings has been allowed in B.C. for years but remains a niche part of the private-sector residential industry.
Adera Development Corp. has had sucess building and selling six-storey condominium projects in Vancouver. Adera uses pre-fabricated cross-laminated timber for the projects, the latest of which was named the best mid-rise residential building in the province by the B.C. home building industry on March 9.
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 timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.
Hardy Wentzel, chief executive officer of Structurlam, which manufactures construction timber, said the long-standing tradition of concrete buildings holds strong.
"The builders may be set in their ways, but when they actually do the economics of building 12-storey wood buildings versus a 12-storey concrete building, and they do a full cradle to grave analysis, they're going to find this is the better way to build," he said.
The 17-storey Brock Commons student residence at the University of British Columbia was the world's tallest mass-timber building when it opened in 2017.