New B.C. Building Code will allow 12-storey wood buildings

The Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC) in downtown Prince George, B.C., is constructed using a repeatable and expandable system which can be used on other building types and sizes. Image provided by Province of British Columbia.
An updated British Columbia Building and Plumbing Code will enable local governments to allow 12-storey tall wood buildings. This doubles the previous maximum height of six storeys.
Thirteen communities have signed on to be early adopters of tall wood buildings using mass timber technology. “Increasing and finding new uses of British Columbia forestry products means we are creating beautiful energy-efficient homes while supporting jobs and local economies,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. “Changes to the building code to promote efficiency is part of our CleanBC plan to reduce emissions in new construction while improving energy efficiency in existing buildings.”
The move to large wood buildings has been controversial in many parts of the country. Ontario only recently amended it’s building code to allow six-storey wood structures, up from four. The degree of expansion and contraction in wood buildings can cause challenges with piping and ductwork and fire officials have expressed concern about the potential fire risk.
The new B.C. Building Code is also designed to increase the supply of homes by allowing secondary suites in multi-family buildings (duplexes and townhouses). The regulations remove maximum size restrictions but will require fire separations between residences.
Energy Step Code requirements have also been introduced for public sector buildings, such as hospitals, schools, community centres and university classrooms. (For more information about the Energy Step Code check out www.plumbingandhvac.ca/b-c-building-code-changes-will-offer-more-flexibility-to-meet-efficiency-requirements/).
Changes to the B.C. Building Code are also designed to enhance the safety of residents. These changes include requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings and assembly buildings – such as schools, offices and places of worship, increased lighting in recycling rooms, and additional requirements for fire alarms and exits on roof-top enclosures – such as patios.
The building code changes apply to building permit applications on or after Dec. 12. The B.C. Building Code establishes minimum requirements for health, safety, accessibility, fire and structural protection, and energy and water efficiency.
The code applies to building construction and renovation throughout B.C., except for some federal lands and the City of Vancouver – which has its own building bylaw. An online version of the new B.C. Building Code is available free of charge and printed copies are available at a reduced rate.