Canadian forest industry delegation tours a home designed with extreme overhangs to stress-test cross-laminated timber construction at the Building Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan, December 2016. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C.’s engineered wood leadership many years in the making

Cross-laminated timber is more than just high-rise material

For many B.C. residents, their experience with engineered wood construction began in the high school gym.

The provincial government was an early adopter of distinctive “glulam” wood beams to support gymnasium roofs, after the company now known as Structurlam started producing the laminated beams in the South Okanagan the 1960s.

Since then it has been a steady evolution into cross-laminated panels and other “mass timber” elements, with the latest beam technology featured world-wide in the roof of the vast Richmond speed-skating oval built for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

That evolution took another step forward this week, as Premier John Horgan visited Structurlam’s plant at Okanagan Falls to announce the B.C. building code is being changed from a limit of six storeys for wood construction to 12.

Horgan’s announcement formalized what was already happening on the ground, with a 12-storey housing project already approved last summer near the Esquimalt naval base, and another on the drawing boards in Victoria’s Burnside-Gorge neighbourhood. Canada’s national code is going to 12 floors next year, but B.C. isn’t waiting for that, Horgan said.

And as always, the U.S. is running hard, considering an International Code Council recommendation to allow buildings up to 18 storeys high by 2021. A 21-floor project was approved in January by Milwaukee, WI municipal officials.

Former forests minister Pat Bell led B.C.’s initiative in 2010, moving the traditional wood-frame height limit from four to six storeys and marketing the idea of engineered wood construction in Asia.

By 2016, the 18-storey Brock Commons residence at UBC was the talk of Asia, with Chinese officials keen on idea of prefabricated buildings rising rapidly using cross-laminated panels that cut down on China’s unsustainable dependence on concrete in the largest building boom in world history.

READ MORE: China, Japan put mass timber technology to the test

READ MORE: B.C. trade mission presses on despite tensions with China

In Tsukuba, Japan, the Building Research Institute was monitoring a modern house with extreme overhangs designed to stress-test cross-laminated panels, and a six-storey wood building with bulked-up gypsum wallboard on the lower floors was undergoing intensive fire resistance testing.

FPInnovations, a federally-led wood research network with facilities at UBC, assisted with the design of Brock Commons, and the Canadian Wood Council, a national industry group, has funded demonstration projects in Asia. One of the newest is Gapyeong Canada Village near Seoul, South Korea, at the site of a famous Canadian battle in the Korean War.

Rick Jeffery, interim president of the CWC, applauded the B.C. announcement this week. The B.C. announcement “marks the collective technical, research and code efforts from a consortium of industry partners that have worked together to demonstrate that tall wood is a safe, sophisticated and low-carbon building solution,” Jeffery said.

Structurlam has built leading-edge projects in B.C. such as the Mica Heli-Ski lodge at Revelstoke, UBC Okanagan’s fitness centre in Kelowna, and a series of U.S. projects in California, Oregon and Washington.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Being Young: Concussions, not my idea of a good time

I had to get doctor’s notes excusing me from classes and from both of my jobs.

Maple Ridge’s indoor pool redo in final months

Structural work done, with target opening to be late summer

Police investigating body found in Maple Ridge park

Discovered early Friday near highway

Maple Ridge’s lake low with dry spell

Boat launch not open at Alouette Lake

Maple Ridge magnetic hill defies the law of Newton

It is a stretch of road where cars roll uphill instead of down

VIDEO: Vancouver fall to Seattle in Game 2 of the playoffs

Thunderbirds topple the Giants 4-1 in Langley, evening the Western Conference series one game each

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Most Read