Good morning, standing committee members. Bonjour à tous.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about Bill C-354 and the Wood Council's reaction to it.
I do apologize. I have a bit of a speech impediment at this time, but I'll work my way through it. It only affects me when I try to say anything with three syllables or more.
I'll tell you a little bit about the Canadian Wood Council. We are a national industry association. We represent more than 90% of the wood product production in Canada, so that means lumber, panels, and engineered wood products. Unlike in the case of other structural materials, our members are almost exclusively Canadian-owned, proudly so, which means that they not only produce in Canada but also that they have interests in growing the markets in Canada. They are totally invested in this market.
The CWC's mission is twofold. The first part is to ensure that current and innovative new products and building systems are fairly represented in the building codes, because what gets represented in those building codes gets built. They are regulatory tools, which is a very important point. The second area our mission talks about is the area of education. In that area, we support students and professors in their curricula as well as the continuing education of practitioners, including architects, engineers, and builders.
I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a couple of quick facts about building codes, which will be relevant a little later on.
The first thing is that building codes and related standards take about five years to develop. There's a five-year cycle ingrained in all of this. You might think that's long, and it is, and you might think that it impedes innovation, and it does, but it ensures that the codes actually meet the objectives as stated by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. So, yes, Canada has objective-based building codes, and their targets are energy and water-use efficiency, fire and structural protection, fire and structural safety, as well as health and accessibility, but there's nothing in there that speaks to carbon or greenhouse gas, and there is nothing in there that speaks about the use of wood, although that would be really nice.
Why is this information important? Since the mid-1900s, before the advent of sprinklers and protection systems or what we call encapsulation, concrete and steel products in building systems kind of ruled. They were the only game in town. These were used in institutional, commercial, and industrial applications, as well as in multi-family residential applications. Much has changed.
Earlier on, the codes were prescriptive. An example of a prescriptive code would be, for a firewall, something like a firewall must be made with masonry blocks. That's prescriptive. It tells you what to do. A change took place about 10 years ago when the National Research Council's codes centre embarked on the development of an objective-based code. Because of those objectives which I stated earlier, codes then became a little more objective-oriented. Instead of, for something like that firewall I just mentioned, that it must be built out of masonry blocks, it now says that a firewall must have a two-hour fire rating. This allows for an increased use of innovation in the solutions. There are some wood solutions associated with drywall on them that can be used now. It also has allowed us to move further into the codes with mid-rise provisions of five and six storeys. It allows us to look at tall buildings, but in the end, it's the 2025 move by the National Research Council towards performance-based codes that will allow us to really get more into the market of these tall buildings.
This is important because, as slow as the building codes are to get updated, and there's that cycle, the federal real property and Public Works purchasing practices are also. They are sometimes updated, but we don't know this. Those updates are not transparent.
It is for that reason, and that reason primarily, we support Bill C-354. At the end, they will update these as the result of this bill action, either through the bill itself or an act, or a policy developed from this will cause the Public Works department to actually take action and consider wood more equally. That doesn't mean they have to win on a first costs basis, but at least there will be a balance.
At the end, the solution is to update those practices to make them product neutral and greenhouse gas savvy or, as Bill C-354 suggests, to force Public Works, through an act or policy, to consider wood use with that carbon metric. In this way, the federal government can catch up to B.C.'s Wood First Act or Quebec's Charte du bois, or wood equally policy.
I'll say a few words about costs and reductions in greenhouse gas. The first is something that is no surprise to me, particularly in our innovation. Wood does not always score first when it comes to costs, especially new wood building systems, but because of the work of some of our funders and research partners, including FPInnovations and the NRC, we see an increase in new solutions that are helping us to evolve these building systems. If you look at Brock Commons, it's the tallest contemporary wood building in North America, well, in the world really, at 18 storeys. You can look at that building and say that it did not win on a first costs basis, but when you look at the construction practices that evolved from it, that building came under budget. Future buildings of that nature will do very well.
In terms of greenhouse gas tools, Derek mentioned that the Athena institute has tools of this nature, life-cycle assessment tools that not only look at greenhouse gas but at other environmental impacts. The Quebec government, working with Cecobois, which is associated with the Conseil de l'industrie forestière du Québec, also has a tool in development that will help them in policy judgments associated with carbon or greenhouse gases. For them, it's not just a question of “wood equally”, as in the Charte du bois. It's also to compare or to look at that extra metric. That is the tool that's being developed. That tool is now being co-funded by the Province of Ontario. B.C. is interested, and the American Wood Council is interested as well. There is an opportunity to take this to governments for policy support.
Is the greenhouse gas metric important? Yes, obviously, to meet government policy objectives. A more rapid adoption considering embodied or avoided energy or greenhouse gas is really important, because early action compounds over time. I would encourage that we consider or look at embodied energy in the products, as well as the operational side, the whole life cycle. Early action is really important in order to meet those life-cycle goals.
Are wood products or wood building systems the final solution here? In my view, maybe; but really, speaking practically, down the road we will see hybrid systems evolve that will use wood, concrete—all those products. Think about the problems we want to solve, including the seismic situations in B.C., for instance. We saw this in Christchurch, New Zealand, particularly. An earthquake happens, the building shakes, the building survives, and people get out. It meets code. However, the buildings are damaged in such a way that they are not reusable. Wouldn't it be nicer to have lighter buildings that could move on their podiums? That area, that lightness, is important. Wood products, and wood fibres in, for instance, concrete, could serve us well into the future.
Mr. Chair, those were my opening remarks. I do have some other comments, if I have another minute or so.