(Image / BC Government)

Changes to the BC building code will allow wood construction buildings to reach 12 storeys, up from six storeys.

The change will provide an alternative to traditional concrete buildings, with both economic and environmental benefits.

Large wooden buildings will use mass-timber technology, which means that the structure will have primary load-bearing elements made of solid or engineered wood. The mass timber may then be encapsulated in fire-resistant materials like drywall.

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Mass timber buildings will also be one-fifth of the weight of comparable concrete buildings and easier to construct, according to the province.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The faster we can deliver the homes that people need, the better for communities right across B.C.”

The BC building code will ensure that these new wooden buildings will still meet performance standards for safety, structural resilience, and fire protection.

Additionally, the timber used in the structures will have environmental benefits and absorb carbon from the air. A large mass timber building can remove carbon equivalent to taking 511 cars off BC roads for one year.

“Changes to the national building code that allow for taller wood buildings take effect next year, but we’re not waiting to get started,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement. “Our government is ready to work with communities to build safe, secure and green tall wood buildings that will create jobs, grow B.C.’s value-added sector and realize our low-carbon future.”

The inclusion of 12 storey mass timber buildings will come into effect in next year’s 2020 federal National Building Code.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that it will work with local governments who express an interest in taking part in the voluntary program.

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