Raising the level of innovative wood technologies

In the not so distant future, BC and Canada’s skylines will take on a different appearance. Anchored today by traditional concrete structures, changes to the national building code will put mass timber buildings, made of either solid or engineered wood, onto the horizon.

The 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys—six storeys more than the current allowance—and will be reflected in the next edition of the BC Building Code. Announced on March 13, BC is taking a proactive approach by inviting local governments to become early adopters of mass timber technology.

Innovative and Sustainable Construction

A low-cost and low-carbon alternative that enables faster construction through prefabrication, mass timber technology is only one-fifth of the weight of comparable concrete buildings, yet still meets performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection. Safe, secure and sustainable, tall wood buildings will help grow BC’s value-added sector through innovative engineered wood products. Expansion of these products will also stimulate the job market, creating opportunities for people in communities across BC.

Behind the Scenes Experts

Timber structure experts, FPInnovations supported a number of research and review activities necessary to bring the code changes to fruition. For example, its scientists worked alongside the Canadian Wood Council and the National Research Council as advisors to the fire code and seismic matters. Technical resources such as the CLT Handbook and the Technical Guide for the Design and Construction of Tall Wood Buildings in Canada and design calculations to validate National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) requirements can be met, were designed. Going forward, FPInnovations is prepared to support mass timber technology expertise among designers and builders, helping early adopters navigate the waters of the existing building code prior to the official roll-out of the new code across Canada.

International Leadership

The evolution of the building code is significant to the forest sector: it supports the creation and growth of both high-value, wood-based products and markets, and raises product value when these products are developed into systems. “Early leadership in innovative wood construction solutions have re-established BC as an internationally recognized leader in building with wood,” says Tim Caldecott, FPInnovations’ Provincial Leader for British Columbia. “The expansion of the NBCC to include mass timber structures will further demonstrate this expertise, showing our ability to continue to walk the sustainable construction talk.” Through its innovative wood technologies, and design, engineering and architectural expertise, BC and Canada have been put back on the map where the likes of Europe, Australia, and the US are interested in the work being done here.