The Government of British Columbia announced it is adopting building-code changes to permit the use of expanded use of mass timber in taller buildings, such as schools, shopping centres and housing, so they can be built faster and more sustainably.

“These changes will help reduce carbon pollution, support the forestry sector, create jobs, build more homes and lead to more vibrant communities,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We know mass timber looks great, and now we can use it in larger buildings and more types of buildings.”

The mass-timber updates to the BC Building Code, now in effect, will:

  • enable taller encapsulated mass-timber construction (EMTC) buildings with as many as 18 storeys for residential and office buildings, an increase from the previous 12-storey limit;
  • expand EMTC to new building types, such as schools, libraries, retail, light- and medium-industrial occupancies, and care facilities; and
  • allow for more exposed mass timber in buildings, based on a building’s height and use, such as residential buildings with as many as eight storeys.

“This is another step forward for British Columbia’s world-class mass-timber sector as we continue to accelerate the adoption of this strong, clean building technology,” said Jagrup Brar, Minister of State for Trade, and chair of the Mass Timber Advisory Council. “Through our Mass Timber Action Plan, we are diversifying both our forestry and construction industries to build a strong, clean and sustainable economy that works for people.”

The BC Building Code changes for mass timber were developed by a national joint task group co-chaired by B.C. and Quebec. The code changes were reviewed by an expert technical advisory group that included representatives from multiple provinces, the fire services community, fire safety engineers, technical building code experts, regulators and industry.

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“It’s great to see tangible solutions to the twin challenges of housing affordability and climate crises being delivered through key levers like the BC Building Code. There is an urgent need to address embodied carbon as part of decarbonizing Canada’s buildings. Embracing the expansion of mass timber in taller buildings highlights the critical role of embodied carbon awareness, while ensuring all Canadians live in safe, healthy, climate-resilient homes that are affordable to heat and cool,” said Rick Jeffrey, president and CEO, Canadian Wood Council.

Other provinces are expected to follow B.C.’s lead and adopt these changes into their building codes. The code changes will be submitted into the national code system for future consideration for the national building codes.

“The Canadian Wood Council applauds B.C.’s code leadership. These expanded provisions for mass timber will enhance the innovation already happening in the province, offering designers, developers and municipalities the opportunity to pursue high-performance, low-carbon wood construction in a wider range of buildings. The 18-storey EMTC provisions have tremendous potential to strengthen the B.C. economy by using B.C. forest products and workers to build much-needed affordable housing,” said Betsy Agar, director, buildings, Pembina Institute.

Featured image: Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. (Government of B.C.)

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