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Sunrise over downtown Vancouver

Vancouver doubles height for mass-timber development from six to twelve storeys

June 3 2020 –

Amendments to the city's building bylaw approved by Council last week will allow mass timber construction up to 12 storeys for residential and commercial uses, doubling the current height limit of 6 storeys. 

With changes taking effect on July 1, permitting taller mass timber construction within the Building By-law will make it easier to build with low carbon materials, support housing affordability, and remove barriers for the construction industry at a time of crisis and economic recovery. 

Benefits of mass timber

This move also represents an important first step in reducing our carbon pollution from construction. Mass timber is a natural low carbon material with good insulating properties, and is pre-manufactured off-site in large, modular pieces. The approved changes are one of the first priority actions under the Climate Emergency Response, reducing carbon pollution from construction materials and designs. 

Benefits of building with mass timber include:

  • Reducing the carbon pollution of construction by 25-45% or more
  • Improving energy efficiency and insulation effectiveness
  • Reducing construction time, cost, and community impact by using pre-manufactured pieces
  • When sourced from regional forests and manufacturing plants, using mass timber can create jobs and support the local and regional economy in forestry and manufacturing
  • Mass timber is significantly more fire resistant than light timber construction

A resilient construction economy is a critical part of Vancouver’s recovery. By making it easier to use mass timber construction in Vancouver and supporting investment in local and regional design, manufacturing, and construction of mass timber buildings, we can enable a pathway towards lower carbon, more affordable, and more resilient construction in Vancouver. 

This change is also part of a move nationally by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes. As part of the provincial process and update to the Vancouver Building By-law, a public comment period took place in October 2019. Those comments became part of the provincial changes that took effect in December 2019, and formed the basis for this increase.

The City’s Mass Timber Advisory Committee, a gender-balanced panel of eighteen local architects, contractors, engineers, developers, building science and code experts, shared strong support for Vancouver adopting this change.