A move by the province to promote the use of mass timber in new buildings is being lauded by one B.C.-based manufacturer.
Last week, the provincial government appointed a ministry of forests representative to promote the expansion of mass timber use in B.C. buildings. He will work with local governments, the construction industry and mass timber producers to develop the market.
Mass timber is a relatively recent technology originating out of Europe that’s touted as a sustainable building material. The most common is cross-laminated timbers made with layers of wood glued together in alternating sizes, which give it high structural stability.
Structurlam CEO Hardy Wentzel said the government has been committed to mass timber for more than 10 years, so this latest announcement is a natural continuation of that work.
On top of being made from a renewable resource, mass timber buildings can be constructed up to 25 per cent faster than those using steel and concrete, according to Wentzel.
Mass timber supply needs to increase to meet demand for new buildings. There are a few mass timber producers based in B.C., but the rest of the building demand is being filled by European manufacturers.
Transportation across continents severely decreases any carbon emissions savings that come from using wood. To truly be sustainable as the provincial government and others claim, the product should be harvested, manufactured and built in B.C., Wentzel said. Structurlam buys B.C. lumber, but some other manufacturers import wood.
Building codes are the other impediment, Wentzel said.
Federal and provincial codes have been updated to include mass timber products, and 13 municipalities in B.C. have also jumped on board. Wentzel hopes other jurisdictions will update their codes to match.
When existing code doesn’t account for new material, building owners end up paying more, in time and extra filing requirements to prove the materials are safe. Vancouver-based owners and architects have been instrumental in taking on this cost to push mass timber code forward, the most notable being Brock House on the UBC campus.
Premier Horgan talked about economic advancement in a recent announcement, suggesting that expanding mass timber in B.C. will mean more jobs, in manufacturing, construction, and forestry.
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