New mass timber projects a glimmer of hope for B.C. forestry industry
VICTORIA – Changes to Canada's national building code could prove promising for an ailing forestry industry.
Starting in 2020, the national building code of Canada will allow for mass timber buildings to be constructed across the country. Currently, buildings made of wood are only allowed to stand six storeys high. After the mass timber policy change next year, buildings will be permitted to stand up to 12 storeys tall.
The increase in size and scale of wooden buildings could help revitalize the forestry industry, according to professionals in the field.
"This is great for jobs, this is great for the industry," said Lynn Embury-Williams, executive director for Wood Works BC. "Each building uses roughly one million board feet equivalent of lumber – it's a big number."
Mass timber buildings already exist in some areas of Canada, including Vancouver Island. While the national building code will not change until next year, B.C. already adopted the program earlier this year.
A 12-storey wooden building, dubbed Tallwood 1, is currently under construction in Langford, which will be used as both a residential and commercial space.
Meanwhile, adjacent to the Tallwood 1, developers are constructing a five-storey wooden building called Terminus, which will be used as a commercial property.
"There's an explosion in mass timber projects right now that we're seeing in B.C. and all through Canada and all throughout the U.S.," said Ilana Danzig, a structural engineer for Langford's upcoming Tallwood 1 building.
"Mass timber is a very hot item. There's going to be very high demand both on the design side and the supply side," said Danzig.
Unlike traditional steel and cement structures, mass timber properties are prefabricated off site then assembled at their final destination. The unique building method is said to make construction faster for crews upon delivery.
"I guess the good news part of the story is the fact that we are seeing tremendous uptake and demand for the value-added wood products that we supply," said Ron McDougall, a mass timber specialist for Penticton-based company, Structurlam. "We'll be buying lumber and more of it."
McDougall says that Structurlam, which fabricates engineered wood products for use in mass timber buildings, currently employs roughly 300 people, with plans to expand.
Industry workers are hopeful that the increase in mass timber projects across Canada will benefit a struggling B.C. forestry industry, which is currently seeing a five-month union strike against Western Forest Products, which affects more than 3,000 workers across coastal B.C., and multiple curtailing announcements by major forestry management companies, like Mosaic.