Following the blaze that destroyed a six-storey wood-frame condominium and social housing project in Richmond, British Columbia, last week, the Cement Association of Canada (CAC) has highlighted the critical need for more study of the fire safety implications of residential mid-rise wood building construction.
The project was undertaken after B.C. amended its building code in 2009 to allow the construction of wood frame residential buildings higher than four storeys, the current height limit permitted for such projects by the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) and all other provincial jurisdictions. The province of Ontario is currently considering even broader amendments. The changes are under review for future possible inclusion in the National Building Code.
The CAC is urging civil servants and politicians to not favour one building material over another due to economic circumstances, but to put safety first. The only way this can be properly done is through extensive consultation with fire safety officials, the insurance industry, consumers and manufacturers of building products.
While the building was not yet complete, this incident serves to underline how fragile and susceptible to fire these structures are. Since sprinklers, one of the key safety features, are mechanical systems that can fail, the CAC has long been advocating for further evaluation of the fire safety and structural risks associated with taller wood frame buildings before changes are made to the National Building Code and provincial Building Codes, and believes this type of review would be of value to British Columbia as well.
“Safe, structurally sound, fire-resistant homes and communities is something that we all want and should be able to count on,” said Cement Association of Canada President and CEO Michael McSweeney. “A concrete building is one of the safest options since concrete doesn’t burn and it stops fire from spreading. But first and foremost, the issue at hand here is ensuring that an adequate level of safety be maintained for our buildings regardless of their height.”
The National Building Code of Canada is conducting an extensive review of the proposed changes for consideration for the next edition of the Code.
About the Cement Association of Canada
The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) is the voice of Canada’s cement manufacturing industry, a vital contributor to the country’s economy and infrastructure. The industry provides a reliable, domestic supply of cement required to build Canada’s critical infrastructure including our network of roads and bridges, homes and buildings, waterworks and dams. The CAC and its members are committed to the the environmentally responsible manufacturing of cement and concrete products. CAC’s members are Ciment Québec, ESSROC Italcementi Group, Federal White Cement Ltd., Holcim Canada, Lafarge Canada, Lehigh Hanson Canada and St Marys Cement Group — companies whose parent corporations belong to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Cement Sustainability Initiative. The cement and concrete industry contributes more than $8 billion in annual sales and over 27,000 direct and indirect jobs to the Canadian economy.