It can be easy being green – what building for the future looks like.

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October 8, 2020

The future of homebuilding is evolving and as the demand for environmentally-friendly building materials increases, home builders and governments are adopting new approaches and “mass timber” is one of those cutting edge ideas.

So, what is mass timber and what are the benefits? We wanted to unpack that and talk with some experts. Recently, a panel of forward-thinking government officials discussed how they are working with the development and construction community in their mass timber efforts.

But let’s first start with the definition:

Mass timber is a category of framing styles typically characterized by the use of large solid wood panels for wall, floor, and roof construction. This construction is quieter, quicker, and reduces the amount of trade workers on site. Recently, a three-storey Passive House building in the City of North Vancouver went up in nine days. The result? Very little impact to the surrounding tenants and neighbors. Post-secondary institutions are even implementing new mass timber training programs and using the material to build student housing.

Now, here is what our experts had to say…..

Q: What do you recommend for home builders when considering mass timber proposals and bringing them into the city?
A: Tim Ryce of the City of North Vancouver said, “it starts with looking internally, looking at the product you want to bring into market, and trying to set that up for best success in the mass timber world. As we move into this new material, new way of construction, and new way of operating buildings – we have to think about the way that building looks, the way it forms, and the structural impacts. As a design team and home builder you need to think about it from the ground up. Get your design team working and collaborating with local authorities very early on.”

Q: How is the province working to fast track approvals for mass timber projects to help these developments see the light of day?
A: MLA Ravi Kahlon of the Province of BC described his experience with local municipalities. “My conversations with mayors have been pretty simple. It’s about innovation, but the climate change discussion is a critical one. It is easy for councils to pass a motion to declare a climate change emergency, but the hard part is what they are going to do about it in their community. So, some communities like the City of North Vancouver, City of Coquitlam, and City of Vancouver have embraced it and are starting to have that conversation. People when they want to see a building approval in their community, they also want to know that this is helping contribute to climate change.”

Q: Why are people choosing to buy a home in a mass timber building?
A: MLA Ravi Kahlon described a recent conversation he had with a new home buyer at the Crest. “I asked one of them why they really liked it and why they bought there, it was climate change and how they felt in the building. We’re certainly seeing a trend with younger people; they want to be more thoughtful in what they buy.”

Q: Mass Timber, COVID-19 and the Need for Innovation
A: Doug Vance of the City of Coquitlam said, “COVID has made us look at innovative ways we could accept building permit applications. Anything that can assist that electronic plan review process is going to be open for a look at. Innovation is going to be key in all sectors.”

Rocky Sethi of Adera Development Corporation summed up the event by saying, “it takes forward-thinking home builders and municipalities and all of that collaboration early on to make these projects successful.”