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Quebec’s tall wood buildings decision upsets cement association


This article was revised on August 31, 2015, at 10.16 a.m.

The Cement Association of Canada is objecting to the recent announcement by Quebec that it will allow wood buildings up to 12 storeys high to be constructed.

Premier Philippe Couillard announced the province’s new position on August 17, saying that the government wants to stimulate the forestry industry which has lost thousands of jobs.

Quebec has allowed six storey wood provisions as of June 13, 2015 in advance of them being published by in the National Building Code of Canada this fall. [correction, August 31, 2015, 10.16 a.m.] Now it has issued a 60-page technical guide, “Bâtiments de construction massive en bois d’au plus 12 étages” (Construction of Mass Timber Buildings Up to 12 Storeys).

Some people question the fire safety of tall wood buildings, but the wood industry says they are safe when built with today’s products such as glued-laminated timber, cross laminated timber and structural composite lumber.

The Cement Association of Canada issued a statement on August 20, questioning why the Quebec government would allow measures not accepted in the National Building Code of Canada.

Following is the text of the CAC press release:

“The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) calls the decision of the Couillard government to bypass the usual rigourous building code development process questionable, as it allows the construction of taller wood buildings on the basis of a guide developed by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec and FPInnovations, a private research centre dedicated to supporting the Canadian forest industry. The guide was launched earlier this week by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

“This guide is not recognized by the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC), and FPInnovations is not a standards development organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. Moreover, the construction of cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings and taller wood buildings are not recognized by the National Building Code (NBCC). It is important to note that the proposal to include CLT building systems in the 2015 edition of the NBCC was voluntarily withdrawn by FPInnovations.

According to the CAC, the Quebec government is allowing measures that are not recognized by the codes or standards developed by accredited organizations in order to directly support the wood industry, to the possible detriment of public safety. The CAC also points out that the use of CLT building systems is no more – and perhaps much less – environmentally friendly than the use of other building systems already recognized in the Code, when one considers the full life cycle of the building.

The integrity of the code development process must be upheld

“All Quebecers have a right to expect that a rigorous process is being upheld and followed when it comes to the development of codes and standards. We have long held that governments should not get involved in the choice of building materials and systems and should leave this to the experts,” said Michael McSweeney, CAC President and CEO. “Like the rest of Canada, Quebec has little experience in the construction of 6-storey wood buildings – how can we venture into the construction of even taller wood buildings? The government has a duty to protect the health of its citizens, not that of a particular industry.”