Mid-rise Buildings

Stronger, safer, more sophisticated

When it comes to wood construction, many people think of basic 2×4 framing, panels or flooring for single-family homes. However advances in wood science and building technology have resulted in stronger, safer, more sophisticated and robust products that are expanding the options for wood construction, and providing more choices for builders and architects.

In 2009, via its building codes, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to allow five-and six-storey mid-rise buildings to be made from wood―more than 250 such buildings are now completed, under construction or in the design stage. In 2013, Québec followed suit with its “Charte du Bois”. Now, after years of study by technical experts with support from research organizations such as the National Research Council and FPInnovations, recommended changes to the 2015 Model National Building Code of Canada offer this same option for all Canadian jurisdictions.

Other provinces now permitting the construction of five- and six-storey wood buildings:

  • March 9, 2017: City of Saint John
  • May 1, 2015: Alberta
  • January 1, 2015: Ontario

The Canadian Wood Council (CWC) supports these changes, and here’s why:

  • Mid-rise buildings made of wood are a new and often less expensive construction option for builders. That’s good news for main-street Canada, where land is so expensive. The recommended changes to the Code would give the opportunity to erect safe, code compliant buildings that would otherwise not be possible. The net benefit of reduced construction costs is increased affordability for home buyers.
  • In terms of new economic opportunity, the ability to move forward “now” creates new construction jobs in cities and supports employment in forestry communities. This also offers increased export opportunities for current and innovative wood products, where adoption in Canada provides the example for other countries.
  • This also reflects a new standard of engineering in that structural, fire and seismic concerns have all been addressed by the expert committees of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. As an example, when it comes to concerns from firefighters, there is increased sprinkler protection for concealed spaces and balconies, greater water supply for fire protection, restrictions on types of building claddings used and increased consideration for access by firefighters. In the end,  when occupied, these buildings fully meet the same requirements of the Building Code as any other type of construction from the perspective of health, safety and accessibility. With growing pressure for building designers to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, wood product based construction is a great choice as it is a renewable building

The Canadian Wood Council’s support is not unique for these building code changes. In Ontario, Home Builders, through organizations such as RESCON, BILD and the Ontario Home Builders Association are also highlighting this opportunity.