BC looks to implement construction of mass timber buildings across the province

British Columbia Premier John Horgan has announced that the province is taking steps to strengthen its forest and timber industry by expanding the use of mass timber into the province’s public and private sector buildings.

Brock Commons is a 18-storey building on the UBC campus that includes 17 storeys constructed from structural mass timber. Photo Courtesy of vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/residences/brock-commons/

Premier Horgan appointed Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, to lead the expansion and use of mass timber in B.C. buildings.

“As our economy bounces back from the COVID-19 crisis, we want to do everything we can to support forest workers,” said Premier Horgan. “By focusing on mass timber, we have an opportunity to transition the forestry sector to high-value over high-volume production. This will mean opportunities for local workers, strong partnerships with First Nations and greater economic opportunity while making a significant contribution to advancing CleanBC.”

Last year, the B.C. government announced its intention to encourage the increased use of mass timber building products in its capital construction programs, particularly in the development of the new St. Paul’s Hospital and the replacement of the Royal BC Museum.

“It’s encouraging to know that the BC Provincial Government stands behind the mass timber industry—recognizing its economic contribution to the province, and its capacity to help us work towards achieving our sustainability goals,” said Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation.

“There’s a strong need for Canada’s buildings and interiors to be constructed in an intentional way, especially during this time,” adds Wentzel. “Right now, efficient timelines, clean job sites, and occupant well-being are of the utmost importance, and the places where we live, work, and play should not require us to compromise that.”

According to a release from the B.C Government, Kahlon will engage with local governments, industry and the construction sector as part of his new mandate.

He will also work with Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and a new assistant deputy minister of mass timber implementation. As well, Kahlon will reach out to Michelle Mungall, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness, and Forest Innovations Investment Ltd. in their efforts to develop new markets for mass timber.

Kahlon will create and chair a joint industry/government steering committee, which will meet semi-annually, to provide guidance and advice to the government’s efforts.

This announcement builds on work announced by government last year, when 13 B.C. communities committed to adopting innovative and safe mass timber technology for taller wood buildings that are faster to build, better for the environment and create new jobs and opportunities for forest communities in the province.

“Recent approval by the City of Vancouver for the construction of wood for commercial and residential projects of up to 12-storeys is great news for the AEC community,” writes engineers Fast + Epp in a statement reacting to the announcement. “Following the Tallwood House at Brock Commons—named the tallest mass timber building in the world in 2017—Fast + Epp has seen heightened recognition and demand for tall timber buildings. The up and coming 10-storey timber office known as 2150 Keith Drive in Vancouver is poised to stand amongst the tallest timber braced frame and CLT shearwall projects in North America at the time of construction.”