Province push ahead on mass timber construction

Provinces push ahead on mass timber construction

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are collaborating in an effort to open more doors for encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC). The three provinces have jointly developed proposed code changes that would allow for taller mass timber office and residential buildings than are currently permitted, and introduce new eligibility for EMTC in long-term care, retail and low-to-medium-hazard industrial facilities and some assembly occupancies.

Public feedback is invited through the Canadian Board for Harmonized Construction Codes (CBHCC) portal until February 16. The exercise is the first time provinces have worked together to harmonize their codes ahead of a triggering initiative from Canada’s model national code developers. National review and adoption could occur later, but, for now, the CBHCC is acting simply as a facilitator and has not contributed to the proposed changes.

“If some provinces adopt these changes before they are included in the national construction codes, it could help to demonstrate a code development process that is more responsive to provincial priorities while maintaining consistent code requirements in the building codes of those provinces that choose to adopt them,” accompanying analysis on Ontario’s regulatory registry states.

The proposed changes establish varying height and total floor space thresholds for seven different occupancy categories, along with other design and safety conditions. Office and residential buildings would both be allowed to rise up to18 storeys, with offices given leeway for larger total area, maxing out at 77,500 square feet (7,200 square metres) versus 65,000 square feet (6,000 square metres) for residential.

Among the newly contemplated facilities, it’s proposed to allow: care homes of up to 10 storeys and 86,000 square feet (8,000 square metres); retail facilities up to 65,000 square feet; low-hazard industrial facilities up to 77,500 square feet; and medium-hazard industrial facilities up to 48,000 square feet (4,500 square metres).

“EMTC buildings have demonstrated that they can achieve the same health, safety, accessibility, fire and structural protection as other types of construction,” Ontario’s regulatory analysis states. “The use of mass timber also has environmental benefits, supports the forestry sector and results in quicker construction projects with less disruption to surrounding neighbourhoods.”

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