B.C. building code update has potential to increase density

by Neil Sharma14 Mar 2019

British Columbia has adopted building code amendments that could reduce costs for both developers and homebuyers.

“Mass timber technology allows faster construction where large sections of a building can be manufactured in a plant and then assembled on site,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The faster we can deliver the homes that people need, the better for communities right across B.C.”

Developers using mass-timber technology had previously been capped at six storeys, however, the updated building code will allow buildings as high as 12 storeys.

The building code update encourages municipalities to embrace mass-timber technology and build taller. Eric Andreasen, vice president of development at Adera Development, which has been building in Metro Vancouver exclusively with wood for 50 years, welcomes the government’s announcement because it will succour much-needed density in the Vancouver region.

“Increased density increases the potential to increase supply, which is good for customers and could ease demand over time,” he said. “With recent trends in land prices, taller wood buildings allow a larger number of homes on a smaller lot. Again, this is good for both buyers and developers. Opportunity is the end result of this announcement, because opportunity comes with acceptance from end-users, consultants like architects and engineers, and approving officials. Acceptance comes from awareness.”

It will be some time until mass-timber technology is widely adopted but Andreasen noted that it can’t come soon enough. By doubling height allowance, density has effectively been doubled.

“Increasing wood building heights to 12 storeys has the potential to double the amount of homes on the same size site. That swings the supply and demand equation in favour of buyers. It also gives buyers the potential to purchase a more affordable type of product and get into the market earlier.”

Homes constructed with timber perform better than concrete ones; there are fewer hazards and sound doesn’t travel as freely.

“The homes are quieter than concrete and the homes are as solid as concrete homes, but they have better performance,” said Andreasen. “Even when it comes down to fire, our wood doesn’t burn. We perceive smart wood to be the building technology of the future and we can compete with concrete pound for pound, dollar for dollar, and there are a number of benefits for customers.”

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