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Could mass timber buildings be coming to Delta?

The face of construction is about to change in British Columbia through the government's investments in mass timber, says MLA Ravi Kahlon
delta, bc mass timber buildings
In 2019, the province adopted new national building code provisions for 12-storey mass timber construction for interested B.C. communities.

The provincial government is pushing ahead with introducing more mass timber construction, but it remains to be seen when the first such development application comes to the City of Delta.

The government this week announced it’s providing funding for 12 mass timber demonstration and research projects in B.C. and has also established a new advisory council to accelerate the adoption of mass timber building systems.

Growing the sector is key to building a strong and sustainable economic recovery, said Premier John Horgan, adding the projects will help urban planners and developers adopt mass timber building systems by supporting the incremental or first-time costs of design development, research, permitting and construction activities.

Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, said the face of construction is about to change in British Columbia through the government's investments in mass timber.

The demonstration projects reflect a range of different building types and approaches to using mass timber that will highlight the versatility and performance of this building material, the province notes.

The research projects will study mass timber's fire performance, the costs relative to steel and concrete, and carbon benefits.

The government already invited municipalities, including the City of Delta, to sign on as mass timber construction early adopters in the Provincial Office of Housing and Construction Standards Mass Timber Early Adopter Initiative.

Council last fall agreed to sign an expression of interest, but also added conditions.

An upcoming new National Building Code will allow encapsulated mass timber construction up to 12 storeys, which in turn will be reflected in the next edition of the B.C. Building Code due out in 2022/23.

The provincial government introduced its early adoption initiative for participating municipalities to permit the construction of taller buildings up to 12-storeys with engineered wood products in advance of the provincial adoption of the National Building Code.

Early adopter communities can also provide feedback on the proposed provisions ahead of the major code change.

Several other municipalities have signed on to the early adoption initiative.

The primary load-bearing structure in mass timber buildings is made of solid or engineered wood.

A Delta staff report to council last fall noted Delta Fire and Emergency Services would support design elements that utilize passive fire protection, active fire detection and suppression techniques equal to or better than the B.C. Building Code.

Any project would be subject to the requirement for a Construction Fire Safety Plan.

Delta’s fire department also supports the same fire protection standards that the Vancouver Fire Department required for the recently constructed Brock Commons, a 12-storey mass timber project at the University of B.C.

It included 24/7 on-site security and phased sprinkler activation during the construction stage.

The Office of Housing and Construction Standards concurred with those standards, as most have been integrated into the new Fire Code, the report notes.

Council agreed with a staff recommendation for a city requirement for independent reviews by professional licensees for submitted structural designs as part of building permit applications.

Delta also wants those members to have appropriate experience in designing structures of a similar type and scale, but not involved in preparing the submitted designs.

Delta’s Mayor’s Task Force on Building Permits and Development Applications earlier this year agreed it would be up to a proponent to bring forward a mass timber project and then see how it moves through Delta’s approvals process.

The task force was told the main concern raised among the various city departments was Delta’s practice to have coordinating registered professionals do code reviews and inspections for more complex buildings, which may limit Delta staff’s ability to provide feedback as an early adopter.