Starting January 1, 2015 Ontario’s building code will allow wood frame buildings up to six storeys high. Until now, wood frame structures were only allowed in buildings up to four storeys.
However, the province will require that wood frame buildings have building stairwells are made of non-combustible materials, and that their roofs are fire resistant.
The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says the requirements for mid-rise wood frame construction will offer the highest degree of public and firefighter safety in Canada.
The ministry also says that the changes “give builders a safe option that can help make building a home more affordable,” and support the development of more “pedestrian-oriented buildings that enhance streetscapes.”
Several North American jurisdictions, including British Columbia, allow wood-frame buildings up to six storeys. Over 50 have been built in B.C. since the province changed its building code to allow them in 2009.
Other industries have argued that wood frame buildings are not as fire-resistant as concrete and steel. The Canadian Wood Council has responded by citing a February 2014 report “Fire Outcomes in Residential Fires by General Construction Type,” released by the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. That report said the outcomes of fires in residential buildings constructed with wood, steel or concrete “showed little to no difference in extent of fire spread or death and injury rates for buildings equipped with sprinkler systems and smoke alarms.”
Ontario, like B.C., is allowing mid-rise wood frame buildings partly because it will help generate new demand for forestry products.