The wood industry in Canada, especially British Columbia, is big business. So, it comes with little surprise that the first six-story wood-framed buildings in Canada are finally underway in B.C.

While architects and developers jumped into the mix to be the first with a six-story wood-frame building when provincial building codes were changed in 2006—multiple projects are in development—a little creativity was needed just to get to that point, says architect Patrick Cotter of Patrick Cotter Architect Inc. in Vancouver, B.C.

The designer of the Remy building, the first to gain a permit in B.C. for six stories, Cotter says it is tougher than just tossing two more floors on a four-story version. “The technical and structural challenges have required a return to first principles,” he says. “Every aspect of the design, massing and detailing has required careful review and consideration. Limitations on shear wall height, and requirement for non-combustible cladding are a few elements that have resulted in buildings that are more urban in character.”

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The Remy Building

He says that these changes provide opportunities for livable neighborhoods in a more “human scale,” all while being more sustainable.

With the relatively low cost of wood and the high availability of an increasing range of engineered-wood products in B.C., developers are more than willing to jump on the wood bandwagon. Richmond, Surrey and Langley (the Remy building is located in Richmond) have taken the forefront in the mid-rise buildings, something Cotter says is the next wave of development in the urban areas of lower B.C.

With some developers reporting cost savings of over 10 percent on wood projects versus concrete and steel, these projects are making people take notice. Another favorable result being reported from the shift is the congruence of materials for the builder. By not forcing the mixing of wood, concrete and steel, a more uniform construction results.

As the efficiency of building with wood—making mid-rise more cost effective—has people taking notice, all of Canada may soon be on board. Three Canadian senators were recently in Kelowna, B.C., with the aim of possible adding in the higher height allowance to the National Building Code.

“The committee is studying the forestry sector and sees the sturdy design for mid-rise wood frame buildings as having potential to expand applications for wood products in Canada's construction sector,” the City of Kelowna says in a press release.

What do you think? Is this a long time in the making or make you want to wait and see how it all turns out down the road?