Canadian Manufacturing

Building material battle brewing in Quebec after 12-storey wooden buildings green-lighted

Cement lobby says Quebec putting safety at risk to support wood industry

OTTAWA—The Quebec Couillard government announced earlier this week that the province would allow lumber to be used to construct buildings of up to 12 storeys – something that would give Quebec’s forestry industry a boost while maintaining public safety.

The Cement Association of Canada, however, is not convinced the decision is in the public interest. The organization called the bypassing of the usual building code development process “questionable,” adding it compromises public safety in favour of the wood lobby.

“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,” Michael McSweeney, CAC president and CEO, said. “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.”

“Like the rest of Canada, Quebec has little experience in the construction of six-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.”

The cement lobby noted the guide put forward by Quebec’s provincial government was originally published by FPInnovations, a private research centre dedicated to supporting the Canadian forest industry. The previous regulation topped out wooden buildings at six storeys.

“This guide is not recognized by the National Building Code of Canada, and FPInnovations is not a standards development organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada,” the CAC said.

“Moreover, the construction of cross-laminated timber buildings and taller wood buildings are not recognized by the National Building Code. 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is important to note that the proposal to include CLT building systems in the 2015 edition of the NBCC was voluntarily withdrawn by FPInnovations,” the association added.

The CAC alleges 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,” and calling on the province to uphold the integrity of the building code development process.

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