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Forest industry pushing for taller buildings

Canada's forestry sector is touting a new generation of high-tech lumber as a way to gain a foothold in a part of the construction industry from which it has long been shut out: condominiums.


April 2, 2013
By The Globe and Mail

Officials at the Forest Products Association of Canada are pushing to have building codes changed to allow for taller wood structures. Such buildings are made possible, they say, by massive wood beams made from reinforced timber that could become the main ingredient in many new condo towers.

“Our bread and butter market traditionally has been single-family homes, but the opportunities in future will be for multifamily residences,”  Paul Lansbergen, a vice-president at FPAC told The Globe and Mail.

The effort highlights the long-suffering industry’s desire to diversify and create new demand for customized products, even as it enjoys a rebound in lumber prices and U.S. home-building activity. Condos are now driving much of the new residential construction activity in larger urban Canadian markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, and while wood won’t be used to make the glass megatowers sprouting up in those cities, it could be deployed in smaller buildings up to 10 storeys, industry officials say. Rising acceptance of these engineered wood products would mean budding competition for the kingpin of construction materials – concrete.

Current national building codes cap the height of wood structures at no higher than four storeys, though British Columbia has allowed wood buildings as tall as six storeys in residential areas since 2009. A review by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes could result in changes in 2015 that would increase the limit nationally to six storeys for structures made from wood products.

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