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Coquitlam applies for tall wood building approval

DCN-JOC News Services
Coquitlam applies for tall wood building approval

COQUITLAM, B.C. — Tall wood buildings could be coming to Coquitlam, B.C.

The city is applying to be one of province’s early adopters of tall mass timber construction in the hopes of providing more options for developers.

Monday night, Council gave the go-ahead for the city to apply to join a provincial initiative that would allow Coquitlam to approve buildings up to 12 storeys made from an innovative, fire-resistant encapsulated mass timber product, several years before planned changes to the BC Building Code (BCBC) would implement it throughout the province.

Thirteen B.C. communities were approved for the initiative in December 2019. Coquitlam will be applying to be part of the next intake, which is anticipated sometime this year.

Encapsulated mass timber buildings differ from typical wood-frame construction in that one of the main components used in this type of construction are pre-fabricated panels of layered laminated wood planks – made in a similar way to plywood. The structural wood elements of the building are covered with fire-resistant materials usually consisting of gypsum board or drywall.

The method provides structural stability as well as natural fire resistance. Wood building proponents argue that the method also leads to faster construction times and costs, reduced environmental impacts. Wood products naturally sequester carbon, produce less on-site construction waste because the panels and structural elements are manufactured off-site.

Tall mass timber construction is anticipated to be added to the National Building Code this year, followed by adoption into the BCBC in two to three years.

A made-in-B.C. example is UBC’s 18-storey Brock Commons student residence, the world’s largest mass timber hybrid building in the world when it was constructed in 2017 as a demonstration project. The project required a site-specific regulation under B.C.’s Building Act.

Should the provincial officials approve Coquitlam’s request to be included as a municipality where this type of construction is permitted, the city would then be able to accept applications for building permits which would comply with the requirements currently within the BCBC.

City officials anticipate the approval would increase the options available to help Coquitlam property owners and developers create more affordable housing options.

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