Timber buildings have been around for centuries. Thankfully, over time, code restrictions have been revised and changed, with concerns of fire safety topmost in many architects’ and builders’ minds.
Recently, new height restrictions have been introduced for wooden structures in the newest Mass Timber Code Proposals guide. Specifically, Code Change Proposals G75-18, G80-18, and G84-18 deal with tall wood buildings. The three code changes state that height, number of stories, and allowable area, should be reviewed only after one becomes familiar with the types of construction.
According to a recent news article, ‘Peter Busby designs a 40 storey timber tower proposed for Vancouver’, posted on treehugger.com, a new timber tower is in the works. Peter Busby of Perkins+Will Canada is the designer onboard the proposed green-build project. According to their website, Perkins+Will has one of the highest numbers of ‘Certified Passive House Designers’ of any design firm in North America (presently 25 in Canada, in case you were wondering).
One of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council (CGBC), with which Longhouse remains a member, Busby has a vision towards reducing energy consumption in new builds. To paraphrase, the tower is the tallest Busby thinks can technically be made with wood today. The building is to be predominantly made out of cross-laminated timbers (CLT) and dowel laminated timbers (DLT). This timber is manufactured in British Columbia and culled from damaged trees. Busby is optimistic it can be built between 35-40 stories high.
However, several people doubt the project will in fact go ahead due to the revised building codes. The new codes permit wood structures up to 12 stories with exposed wood elements, and up to 18 stories with wood enclosed in gypsum board. Procedures may be taken that permit variances from the code but could be time-consuming. To date, the tallest wooden skyscraper in Canada is the Brock Commons at UBC, at 18 stories.
Furthermore, zoning on the site in question has a limit of 14 stories. Unquestionably, every project should be studied to be suitable to the existing neighbourhood. Although wood is having a renaissance, there seems to be much debate about whether the proposed 40 towers is too tall for the site.
Longhouse Specialty Forest Products has played a role in thousands of exciting custom projects worldwide. We’ve had the pleasure of working with several talented individuals in the design and construction industry. Dedicated to sustainable construction methods and growth, in addition to maintaining as tiny of a carbon footprint as possible, we’re keeping a close watch to see how these new height restrictions affect future modern projects.