Premier John Horgan, right, walks with Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam in Okanagan Falls. Horgan made an announcement Wednesday that the B.C. Building Code will update to allow mass timber construction of 12-storey buildings. (Tara Bowie/Penticton Western News)

B.C. first province to allow 12-storey mass-timber builds

Premier Horgan announced in OK Falls that mass-timber will be allowed on buildings up to 12 storeys

B.C. will be ahead of the rest of Canada in allowing 12-storey mass timber buildings, meaning more jobs in manufacturing and in the woods, Premier John Horgan said.

The current building code allows only six-storey mass timber buildings, but the National Building Code is expected to be revised and allow for 12 storeys builds in 2020.

Travis Hiller, right, of Structurlam talks about operations with Hardy Wentzel, CEO, Structurlam, Premier John Horgan and Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. (Tara Bowie/Penticton Western News)

Mass timber construction uses large prefabricated wood units—like the manufactured by Stucturlam— for wall, floor and roof construction.

Horgan, along with Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was at Structurlam’s Okanagan Falls at plant to make the announcement March 13.

“Normally B.C. would assess those recommendations and then they would implement a year or two after that. We believe that the work has been done we’ve got a practical example of more than 12 storeys at Brock Commons of 18, so we’re prepared, we’re confident that the work has been done on safety. The work has been done on the fire stuff,” he said to media and workers at the mass timber plant.

Related: Bright spots ahead for B.C. forest industry in 2019

Brock Commons is an 18-storey residence at the University of B.C. campus built in 2016 using mass timber.

Using mass timber construction is also expected to shorten building times and decrease budgets. Horgan said in the Brock Commons project the construction time was cut in half. The building was constructed in just 66 days.

“We have a housing crisis in British Columbia right now and we have a product that can see houses built, mass houses built quickly and in a less impactful way than other forms of construction,” he said.

Horgan noted the hope was exports of the mass timber, specifically in countries prone to earthquakes, will increase.

“The advantage of this on the seismic side is that wood moves. On the earthquake side, wood is a much better product for construction, that’s why we’re excited about the export potential to places like Japan who are already significant purchasers of B.C. wood products. When we show them what we can do with engineered wood products like mass timber products developed here, I think the export potential is significant to areas where seismic activity is concerned,” he said.

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