timthumbChange in Ontario Building CodeSix-Storey Wood-Frame Buildings Will Enhance the Urban Landscape
A much-needed change in the Ontario Building Code could also bring about a new look in the Canadian urban landscape. The province will soon allow wood-frame buildings, which can be built up to six-storeys, raising the limit from four-storey dwellings. This change is expected to create more opportunities for apartment building developers and owners.

Wood construction reflects new standards in building, exceeding code requirements

With a thumbs-up from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Canadian Wood Council and Ontario Wood WORKS!, the change in building code takes effect January 1, 2015. So what does that mean to builders, owners and real estate interests involved in the apartment construction and rental industry?

To begin with, it’s time to dispel myths about unfounded concerns regarding multi-family wood structures. Wood-frame buildings, soon to rise to six storeys, not just follow code; they also exceed the stringent regulations set down and vigorously enforced by the province. Mid-level dwellings constructed of wood reflect new standards in design and engineering, fulfilling all the requirements for safety, health and accessibility.

Reducing building costs and giving developers more options

Wood stands up as well as any other construction material to fire, wind, seismic shifts and structural integrity. That’s good news for the companies that build condo and rental apartment buildings, as well as student housing.

“A more flexible building code for Ontario has a positive impact on developers and builders who understand the merits of wood-frame construction in multi-family dwellings,” says Derek Lobo, President and CEO of ROCK Advisors. “Wood construction can substantially reduce building costs, while giving developers and designers more options.”

Wood construction: easing the shortage with affordable housing

Today, the wood industry is all about innovation, sustainability and engineering breakthroughs in construction techniques. Marianne Berube, Executive Director for Ontario Wood WORKS!, says the new code will help municipalities to achieve their urban density goals. She adds that this leads to more affordable housing options.

Wood-frame buildings offer good potential for apartment industry

Supporting Marianne’s view is Paul Bedford, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Toronto and former Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. Paul says we need innovative ideas to resolve our housing problems. With the lack of affordable rental housing, a good part of the solution is based on mixed-use buildings on main streets. This offers lots of opportunities for wood-frame, six-storey dwellings to help ease the chronic shortage.

“Paul is quite right when he says there is a good potential for the apartment industry,” says Derek Lobo. “With more emphasis in achieving a better quality of life and enhancing the urban environment, the building code change could not have come at a better time.”

British Columbia set the pace in 2009 when that province changed its code to allow wood construction for larger multi-family dwellings. With well over 250 five and six storey dwelling constructed of wood, the trend continues in B.C.

This new development in building construction is really a resurgence of a practice that started in the early 1900s. Wood-frame and heavy timber construction – sometimes up to 10 storeys – was the norm in the early 20th century and many of those buildings are still standing in Canadian cities.

Wood construction and its impact on the apartment industry will be part of a three-day conference that ROCK advisors will be hosting in Toronto from April 20 to 22, 2015. For more information, go to rockadvisorsconference.ca