A boost for mass-timber in building larger structures; marketed as sustainable, lighter

In a move designed to strengthen the province’s forest and timber industry, Premier John Horgan has appointed Ravi Kahlon as the lead in expanding the use of mass timber in B.C. buildings.

Kahlon, parliamentary secretary for the Forests Ministry, will be expected to engage with provincial ministries, local governments, industry and the construction sector to look for new opportunities for mass-timber construction and to develop new markets.

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“As our economy bounces back from the COVID-19 crisis, we want to do everything we can to support forest workers,” said Horgan, who made the announcement during a call with the Council of Forest Industries.

“By focusing on mass timber, we have an opportunity to transition the forestry sector to high-value over high-volume production. This will mean opportunities for local workers, strong partnerships with First Nations and greater economic opportunity while making a significant contribution to advancing Clean B.C.”

Last year, the province announced a push for the increased use of mass-timber building products in its capital construction programs, particularly in the development of the new St. Paul’s Hospital and upgrading of the Royal B.C. Museum.

In mass-timber buildings, the primary load-bearing structure is made of solid or engineered wood. These buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

Kahlon will chair a new joint industry-government steering committee, which will meet twice a year to provide guidance and advice to the government.

The industry appears to be on-side with the appointment and the drive to create more opportunities for the use of mass-timber construction.

“Expanding the use of sustainably harvested, low-carbon wood products in B.C. buildings will help combat climate change and support getting people back to work in forestry-related jobs across the province,” said Susan Yurkovich, chief executive of the Council of Forest Industries.

Last fall, 13 B.C. communities, including Victoria, Saanich, Langford and Colwood committed to adopting mass timber technology for taller wood buildings.

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