Eric Andreasen: B.C. mass timber is ready for global prime time

Op-Ed Vancouver Sun

Originally published September 18, 2020 Opinion/Op-Ed Vancouver Sun

OPINION: Due to significant interest from international corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Adidas, Wal-Mart and others, mass timber has gained significant attention from the public and entire construction industry.

British Columbia’s mass timber movement is gaining momentum.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic forces nations to review their supply chains, there is an opportunity within this crisis in B.C. to make meaningful and lasting improvements to our own economy, and leverage our excellence in mass timber manufacturing, design and construction.

Mass timber provides us with a better way to build. Mass timber is constructed by laminating together smaller sections of lumber to create structural components for buildings. Known as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), the prefabricated components can be used to assemble walls, columns, beams and floors.

When compared to concrete or traditional timber-frame buildings, mass timber is built quicker and cleaner, creating less Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions. The homes and spaces in a mass timber building are quieter and provide more safety in fire than a traditional timber-framed home, while providing fire resistance equivalent to that of a concrete structure.

In our new normal, physical distancing could be a long-term reality. Off-site CLT prefabrication results in 30 to 40 per cent fewer workers at mass timber construction sites during the framing process, and framing a mass timber building usually takes 30 per cent less time than framing a similarly sized timber-framed building.

Moreover, mass timber sites also experience fewer deliveries, resulting in less congestion at our build sites, helping to block the spread of COVID-19.

Due to significant interest from international corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Adidas, Wal-Mart and others, mass timber has gained significant attention from the public and entire construction industry.

The City of Vancouver recently joined 13 other municipalities in B.C., permitting mass timber projects up to 12 storeys. And this summer, B.C. Premier John Horgan tasked Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon with leading the province’s strategy to support and expand the mass timber industry.

Kahlon recently toured Adera projects in North Vancouver and Coquitlam. He’s also meeting with various leaders in mass timber in B.C. and is working with municipalities to support and expedite mass timber project approvals.

As an innovative and forward-thinking company, Adera has increased our involvement by doubling our commitment to add at least 1,000 new mass timber homes across the region by 2025.

It’s increasingly clear that the pandemic has been a major blow to B.C.’s economy. Our forestry and construction industries have the potential to help alleviate some of that pressure. Mass timber builders like us, together with the province, can leverage this opportunity to create more jobs, and more high-quality housing for British Columbians.

But more can be done.

There is an opportunity to draw more attention to mass timber construction in residential and commercial applications. So how do we do this?

Firstly, we need to get more municipalities on board to expand timber adoption to make B.C. a true hub of knowledge, experience and expertise.

Secondly, our government and industry stakeholders need to come together to show that mass timber homes are safer than standard wood-framed buildings — and as safe, or safer than, concrete, with respect to fire resistance.

We also need more help from the government to showcase the benefits of living in clean, quiet, beautiful mass timber homes — as our residents can attest. Through discussions with MLA Kahlon’s office, this effort is well underway, and Adera is at the forefront of that effort by the province.

Thirdly, we need to communicate the positive role mass timber is playing in fighting climate change. Each year, building materials and construction account for 11 per cent of global carbon emissions.

CLT is carbon sequestering and uses wood from sustainably managed B.C. forests. Mass timber buildings are also more energy efficient.

Our renewable, carbon sequestering CLT panels provide a meaningful response to reducing global carbon emissions and this story needs to be told.

This government seems committed to spreading awareness about the benefits of mass timber, thereby boosting B.C.’s reputation as a global leader, while also generating support for new jobs in the industry.

If the objectives are met, B.C. will emerge as a global leader in mass timber. British Columbians will be able to leverage our rich, resource-based economy to create new jobs, improve our economy, and create sustainable, affordable housing for future generations.

There has never been a better time for this.

Eric Andreasen is Adera Development’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing.