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B.C. OKs 12-storey wood buildings

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OKANAGAN FALLS, B.C.—The height limit for wood buildings in British Columbia is rising to 12 from six storeys in a move Premier John Horgan expects to spur development using timber and give the province a headstart on other parts of the country.

B.C. is changing its building code to allow the construction of taller wood buildings as a safe, economic, and environmental alternative to concrete apartments and office buildings, Horgan said yesterday.

B.C.'s building code changes come one year ahead of expected changes in the national building code, which also are expected to increase height limits for wood buildings to 12 storeys, Horgan noted.

“We're not waiting for the rest of the country to get here," he stressed. ”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.”

Horgan said he expects local governments and First Nations to approve more wood buildings for family apartments, student residences, and business locations.

He made the announcement at Structurlam, a timber production company in Okanagan Falls near Penticton that has been a North American leader in wood products used in buildings.

“We need to get more value out of every log," he stressed. "It's cost-effective, it's environmentally-sensitive, and it's putting British Columbians to work with a B.C. product.”

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, said the height change allows the company to continue being an innovator on mass timber products and building designs.

He said the company uses B.C. wood, including spruce, pine, and fir.

Canada is a leader in wood technology, using different forms of timber and lumber to create products that can be formed into pre-fabricated wood used as beams, columns, walls, arches, floors, and roofs, says the Canadian Wood Council.

Wentzel said mass timber buildings are safe and faster to build, but 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 noted.

Eric Andreasen, vice-president of sales and marketing at Vancouver building company Adera, welcomed the change, which he said likely will convince more developers to consider wood buildings.

“I do believe a lot of people are going to start having an awareness and that's going to lead to more tall wood construction,” he remarked.

“It's got some natural characteristics and it just looks better.”

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