Wood construction tries to grow up

Posted by Rumin Mann
February 25th, 2013

Steven Street spent some time this week in the Vancouver area, seeing with his own eyes what all the fuss and fear has been about.

The wood industry executive, along with a few Ontario engineers and architects, toured half a dozen new British Columbia condo developments.

On paper, the buildings might sound radical. But, in reality, they seemed to Street and others on the daylong excursion exactly what they were meant to be — nice, affordable places to live.

Until four years ago, these six-storey condo projects would have been built out of concrete and steel. But because of controversial amendments to the B.C. Building Code, which used to limit wood-frame construction to four storeys, they can now be built — more cheaply and quickly — out of wood.

“There are upwards of 170 of these buildings under construction out here. They’re nice-looking places. The people living in them seem generally very happy,” says Street via cellphone mid-tour.

“This isn’t about building cheap housing (that compromises safety). It’s about removing barriers to using materials other than plastic, steel, glass and concrete.”

Ontario’s Building Code restricts wood construction to buildings of four storeys or less. But for a number of reasons, developers here have been pushing to boost that number to six, like in B.C., where there’s now talk of going to eight or more storeys.

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