CityNews Everywhere - Vancouver | March 20, 2024
Grant Newfield, MEng, P.Eng., Struct.Eng. | Principal

With recent changes to the BC Building Code, mass timber is being increasingly touted as the building material of the province’s future.

But as cost remains a strong consideration for many looking into the carbon-storing material, one tool is helping designers come to the table with a plan, rather than a risk.

B.C. is leading the country in projects using the natural building material. According to a map by the federal government, 355 of the 832 completed, ongoing, or planned mass timber projects in Canada are happening in B.C. Those include UBC’s Brock Commons Tallwood House student residence and the Rosemary Brown Arena in Burnaby. B.C. also leads the country in mass timber manufacturing facilities, claiming seven of the 19 factories currently contributing to Canada’s 1.1 million cubic metres of production capacity.

Meanwhile, concrete remains the most used building material in the world. The cement used to create that concrete accounts for seven per cent of global CO2 emissions and 1.5 per cent of Canada’s CO2 emissions, according to the federal government. In 2019, this meant cement represented 26 per cent of global industrial sector CO2 emissions. It’s currently the third-largest industrial energy consumer.

Structural engineer Grant Newfield says while building code updates in recent years have increasingly allowed engineers to build bigger and taller mass timber structures, it’s still not always the cheaper option.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re starting to be more efficient on the cost side of it. But for the last little while, mass timber has been generally a little more expensive to build than other materials,” Newfield said.

“The big benefit that mass timber provides over other elements is its sustainable requirements. It’s a highly renewable resource, as well as when you look at a sustainability scorecard and all the things that go into the sustainability aspects of a project, it makes it easier to meet targets, using mass timber as a building material as opposed to a concrete or steel.”

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