COQUITLAM, B.C., Jan. 30, 2020 – Coquitlam is applying to be one of B.C.’s early adopters of tall mass timber construction in the hopes of providing more options for the type of construction permitted in the City, leading to an increase in housing options.
Monday night, Council gave the go-ahead for the City to apply to join a provincial initiative that would allow Coquitlam to approve buildings up to 12 storeys made from an innovative, fire-resistant encapsulated mass timber product, several years before planned changes to the BC Building Code (BCBC) would implement it throughout the province.
Thirteen B.C. communities were approved for the initiative in December 2019; Coquitlam will be applying to be part of the next intake, which is anticipated sometime this year.
The Future of Mass Timber
Encapsulated mass timber buildings differ from typical wood-frame construction in that one of the main components used in this type of construction are pre-fabricated panels of layered laminated wood planks – made in a similar way to plywood. The structural wood elements of the building are covered with fire-resistant materials usually consisting of gypsum board or drywall.
The method brings strength as well as natural fire resistance. Benefits also include faster construction times and costs, reduced environmental impacts through the use of a renewable resource which naturally isolates carbon, produces less on-site construction waste because the panels and structural elements are manufactured off-site, and support for B.C.’s forest industry. These buildings are protected by robust fire sprinkler and alarm systems which further increase the safety of these structures.
Growing in popularity around the world, the new building technology is anticipated to be added to the National Building Code this year, followed by adoption into the BCBC in two to three years.
A made-in-B.C. example is UBC’s 18-storey Brock Commons student residence, the world’s largest mass timber hybrid building in the world when it was constructed in 2017 as a demonstration project. The project required a site-specific regulation under B.C.’s Building Act.
Should the Province support Coquitlam’s intention to be included as a local authority where this type of construction is permitted, the City would then be allowed to accept applications for building permits which would comply with the requirements currently within the BCBC. Approval would increase the options available to help Coquitlam property owners and developers create more affordable housing options.
View the staff report to Council for more information about this initiative at www.coquitlam.ca.