Wood Mid-Rise Opportunity

Over the course of the coming year, changes will be recommended around the way Canadian homes and businesses are constructed. Panels of experts have spent countless hours over the last five years reviewing the hundreds of chapters and pages which make up the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC). Through the lengthy review process, professionals representing a wide range of sectors have provided input that will form the basis of changes in the next version of the Code. One change that many in the building industry are keenly anticipating is the modernization of the Code to go beyond four storeys to allow up to six-storey wood-frame and massive timber mid-rise building construction.

The recommended shift to higher wood mid-rise construction is based on a number of important factors. These include:

  • better recognition of the design properties of wood products;
  • improvements in wood-based building science and use of sprinkler systems;
  • he need for lower cost, building-code-compliant construction options, leading to increased home affordability; and
  • the fact that wood is a renewable product that will reduce the environmental impact of buildings.

While the deliberations are finalized on the proposed adoption of up to six-storey wood-frame construction in the National Building Code of Canada, it will be, in this instance, playing catch-up with some jurisdictions which are already convinced of the viability of mid-rise construction. Taller wood mid-rise buildings are a proven success in Canada, and are increasingly seen as a desirable commodity in countries around the world.

The province of British Columbia has led the move to mid-rise construction, incorporating changes to the B.C. Building Code in 2009. To date, more than 250 five- or six-storey wood buildings have been completed or are currently being designed or under construction in the province, but B.C. is not alone. The province of Quebec in 2013 adopted its Charte du Bois which includes the new opportunity for five- and six-storey wood mid-rise buildings in its building code, and just this past September, province of Ontario announced that the Ontario Building Code will be similarly modified in March 2015.