Starting in 2015, Ontario builders will be allowed to construct buildings for business, mercantile and residential use – up to 6 stories – out of wood. Previously, wood buildings could be maximum 4 stories. Builders had long tried to amend this rule. There was active opposition, from groups such as the Canadian Steel Construction Council, the Canadian Sheet Steel Building Institute (CSSBI), and other Canadian and US steel interests, who claimed (among other things) that cutting trees for building wasn’t environmentally friendly, masonry buildings last a lot longer and – probably more obvious – wood burns easier than concrete and steel.
British Columbia had already passed a similar act back in 2009 after much debate. It ended up being a perfect solution to help them unload the dead timber that resulted from the pine beetle epidemic killing approximately half of the province’s commercial pine. Guess what? They haven’t proven to be more dangerous than other kinds of buildings. They are comparable in terms of fire/life safety, strength and durability, and seismic performance. Wood also has the lowest embodied energy of any building material – so using it can potentially reduce a development’s carbon footprint.
I think that allowing 6 stories will improve affordability and increase the number of projects/sites, which will become viable. Previously they would have been built out of concrete which is much more expensive and especially unviable for 4-6 stories. It’s great to see the government making decisions that are of benefit to all – consumers, builders and suppliers.
You can check out the official statement from the BILD President/CEO Bryan Tuckey about the change to Ontario Building Code here.