Alberta to Allow 12-Storey Wood Construction

Alberta has announced that it will be the first province in Canada to allow 12-storey wood construction in all its jurisdictions.

The province 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.

Current Alberta and national building codes allow wood-building construction for up to six storeys, but the next edition of the National Building Code will allow for the use of tall wood construction with fire-resistant material. The new code is anticipated for publication at the end of 2020.

“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. We made this change knowing that mass timber products are safe and that these buildings will meet all necessary standards,” Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Province officials state that new technology makes taller wood construction feasible. According to Alberta’s release, 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 feature sprinkler systems.

“We commend the Government of Alberta for advancing the use of wood-building construction of up to 12 storeys with this provincewide variance. By building with products that are made locally, we are supporting thousands of jobs in small communities and large cities throughout the province. 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,” said Paul Whittaker, president, Alberta Forest Products Association

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1 Comment
  1. Robert Charles Merchant says

    The fire safety issues aside, another real concern should be the durability of wood when water inevitably gets into the structure, either by wall egress or by more common plumbing leaks. Wood rots when exposed to long term water leakage, which nearly ever home I have inspected will have over time. While replacing rotted timbers in a home or small apartment is one thing, and relatively safe to accomplish, it will be something else in a multi storey tower, with much load superimposed. And while fire codes and sprinkler systems can protect a wood system, fires can generate from many sources and be of such a volume from furnishings alone, that even in concrete structures, fire protection systems have been overcome. If this happens in a wood structure,the results will be catastrophic. This is the pine shingle Alberta experiment all over again.

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