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Alberta to allow wood-building construction up to 12 storeys

Alberta will now allow wood-building construction for up to 12 storeys. Current Alberta and national building codes allow wood-building construction up to six storeys.

“Not only will this decision support the forestry industry and land developers, it will provide affordability to homebuyers, bolster employment, and give Alberta a competitive advantage,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

“We made this change knowing that mass timber products are safe and that these buildings will meet all necessary standards.”

While other jurisdictions in Canada, like B.C., currently allow for 12-storey wood construction, Alberta will become the first province in Canada to allow the practice province-wide.

Minister Madu tours Western Archrib with (l-r) Paul Whittaker, Scott Fash of BILD, Dale Beesley, Municipal Affairs, and Andre Lema, of Western Archrib. (Gov. of Alta. photo)

Alberta will issue a notice – based on technical provisions developed for the next edition of the National Building Code – to allow early use of tall wood or mass timber construction for up to 12 storeys using fire-resistant material in time for the upcoming construction season.

“By building with products that are made locally, we are supporting thousands of jobs in small communities and large cities throughout the province,” said Paul Whittaker, Alberta Forest Products Association President.

“From people working in sawmills, to value-add facilities, to jobs in construction and transportation, everyone benefits from this change. Moreover, because wood is fully renewable and has a low carbon footprint, our environment benefits, too.”

Advancements in fire-protection and wood-product technology are allowing for the construction of taller wood buildings without compromising safety.

The building codes will require tall wood buildings to be built as encapsulated mass timber construction, where the solid or engineered wood has been surrounded by fire-resistive material. Buildings of mass timber construction will also be fully equipped with sprinklers.

“This provides our industry and member companies with more options in meeting the housing affordability needs of Albertans,” said Patrick Shaver, chair, BILD Alberta Chair and president of Avillia Developments.

Wood buildings taller than six storeys have been built in Vancouver (University of British Columbia’s 18-storey Brock Commons), Europe, the United States, and other jurisdictions around the world. Mass or laminated timber has excellent durability and seismic, fire, and acoustic safety performance.

The encapsulated mass-timber construction component of the 2020 National Building Code has already been reviewed by the National Building Code committees and fire-safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists, and builders.

The economic impacts of tall wood buildings include the potential to create about 60 jobs per construction site and up to 400 jobs per new sawmill and production sites, and growth in demand for lumber, for example, 100-million board feet, about $40-million worth of lumber.

Alberta has declared Jan. 20-24 Red Tape Reduction Awareness Week. This coincides with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s own Red Tape Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of the costs of regulatory burdens to businesses across Canada. This year, the CFIB gave Alberta B-minus for its efforts to cut red tape, the highest grade the province has ever achieved.

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