Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My last name is pronounced “cozy”, so think about being comfortable or cozy by a biomass fire.
I think Mr. Cannings read my speaking points last night, so I hope this is incremental and not just duplicative.
I also want to introduce my colleague Mohammad Mohammad. He's an engineer with a specialization in engineered wood as well as tall wood buildings. I'm happy to have him here today also.
We're very happy to be here today to talk about advanced timber construction in Canada. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a snapshot of how wood is used in construction in Canada, how it has evolved over time, and where the future might lie with respect to wood use. The presentation will also indicate how the Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, has supported the use of wood in construction.
Wood is often combined with other materials such as concrete and steel in construction. We call this hybrid construction. Hybrid wood construction provides a cost-effective and sustainable solution in building, as well as options to improve building performance and design. By capitalizing on the best attributes of each material, architects and specifiers have an opportunity to optimize their design when constructing taller and larger buildings. The popularity of building materials like wood that come from renewable resources is increasing worldwide. Wood-based materials, over their life cycle, use less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional energy-intensive construction materials. Given this, wood can help reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment.
I know we circulated a presentation in advance, so I will be flipping through that. If you hear me say “on page 2”, you'll see that many mid-rise and tall wood buildings were quite common across Canada until the early 1940s. This included the nine-story Kelly Douglas Building in downtown Vancouver, which is over 115 years old and still operational.
Construction of such buildings stopped mainly due to the introduction of modern building codes in 1941, where limits on wood building height and area were introduced. Wood, however, remains the commonly used material in the construction of residential housing in Canada, and over 90% of all Canadian and American homes are constructed with wood today.
On slide 3, you'll see that new engineered wood products came onto the market in the 1980s and the 1990s and generated an interest to start considering wood in non-residential and taller buildings. New composite products offer strength properties and safety performance on par with more traditionally used construction materials and are now commonplace in certain structural applications.
On the next page, I want to underscore that prefabricated mass timber components such as CLT, or cross-laminated timber, provide more options to designers and builders and help expand the use of wood in non-traditional applications. CLT is made of wood strips stacked cross-wise on top of each other, and they're either glued or nailed. There are two major producers of CLT in Canada, which Mr. Cannings spoke to earlier; one in B.C. and one in Quebec. CLT has been shown to have strong seismic and fire resistance capacity. It also benefits as a building material for quick, on-site assembly.
On the next page, I want to speak to the building code changes in Canada. With the development of new engineered wood building products and the move toward the use of wood in construction in non-residential and taller building applications, there was a need to re-examine and assess Canada's building codes with respect to wood. Until recently, four stories was the maximum height. As you know, in Canada, there's a national building code and then each of the provinces has its own provincial building code. Those provincial codes are often modelled after the national code. The Province of British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in Canada to permit wood frame construction up to six stories tall, in 2009. Our work with the National Research Council and FPInnovations led to the updating of the national building code of Canada in 2015 to six stories. Several provinces have also updated their codes, and now most jurisdictions across the country allow wood frame construction up to six stories.
I want to give you a picture of how our support helped lead to the approval of six-storey wood frame construction in the National Building Code of Canada. Extensive fire engineering, structural, and acoustics research was undertaken by the National Research Council and FPInnovations to ensure that wood structures could be safely constructed to higher heights. Demonstration buildings were constructed in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec to showcase new innovative wood products in mid-rise and non-residential applications. We and the provinces supported the Canadian Wood Council and its wood works program, which provides education and training for architects, engineers, and builders on how to build with wood.
Last year, through the various activities of the wood works programs, more than 15,000 professionals have been reached and 45,000 hours of educational training provided. All these activities combined have helped increase wood product sales by approximately $940 million since the inception of the program in 1998.
Building code changes have had a big impact. Currently, there are close to 500 mid-rise wood buildings across Canada that are either built, under construction, or at the planning stage. Code development may not be sexy, but it can lead to real successes in the market. The number is expected to significantly increase in the coming years as building code changes are fully understood, particularly in Quebec and Ontario, our biggest provinces, where construction activity is booming and code changes have been relatively recent.
I want to speak to our tall wood building efforts. The acceptance of engineered wood products as viable building materials and the growing trend globally for taller wood buildings led to the Government of Canada's decision to implement a tall wood building demonstration initiative in 2013. This initiative was launched by NRCan to facilitate broader commercial and regulatory acceptance of wood in taller applications by showcasing advanced wood-based structural building solutions. The initiative resulted in two tall wood buildings in Canada, one in B.C. and one in Quebec. The Brock Commons building at UBC stands currently as the tallest hybrid wood building in the world, putting Canada on the leading edge of advanced timber construction.
To ensure the safety of the two tall wood building demonstration projects, extensive research was completed. Research was funded by NRCan in the areas of fire resistance, structural integrity, building envelope, and acoustic parameters.
In the case of fire testing, as Mr. Cannings alluded to, a mock building, including a CLT shaft three storeys in height, was constructed and burned at an NRC testing facility. Fire officials from around the country were invited to view the fire demo, which demonstrated that the fire safety performance of the CLT elevator and stairwell shaft met and even exceeded existing building code requirements of non-combustible construction.
One of the many reasons that many jurisdictions around the world are moving toward wood construction is that wood can help reduce the carbon footprint in most buildings and lower greenhouse gas emissions created by the built environment. Several life-cycle assessment tools are currently available to help engineers, architects, and builders choose the material that reduces the environmental footprint of their building. A carbon calculator developed by the Canadian Wood Council was used to predict the carbon impact of the Brock Commons building in Vancouver. Through this carbon calculator, the total greenhouse gas mitigation by using wood is estimated at 2,400 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to the removal of about 511 cars off the road for a year.
We have an opportunity to discuss a new program of the Government of Canada to further stimulate market and regulatory acceptance of tall wood buildings. Through the pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change, budget 2017 provided $39.8 million over four years to encourage the increased use of wood products in construction and updated building codes. We call it a green construction through wood program, or GCWood. It aims to support increased use of wood in non-traditional construction projects such as tall wood buildings, low-rise commercial buildings, and bridges, by funding demonstration projects. GCWood will also provide resources to complete the necessary research work that would enable taller wood buildings to be permitted in the next cycle of the national building code of Canada in 2020.
Finally, GCWood will help develop costing tools as well as wood-based curriculum to increase knowledge of mass timber design. The GCWood program is anticipated to result in up to two megatonnes of carbon emissions avoided in 2030 and help Canada meet its climate change obligations as per the Paris accord.
In conclusion, the 21st century is experiencing a renaissance in wood construction. There is strong interest in the design community to use new innovative wood products or use them in combination with other building materials in the construction of cost-competitive hybrid buildings. Using wood is one strategic way that can help Canada reach its 2030 climate change target, while creating jobs for Canadians and opportunities for Canadian businesses.