B.C. aims to grow mass timber construction and become the ‘Harvard of green building’

B.C. officials have tapped Ravi Kahlon, the parliamentary secretary for forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, to spearhead the expansion and use of mass timber in construction.

“As our economy bounces back from the COVID-19 crisis, we want to do everything we can to support forest workers,” said Premier John Horgan, who made the announcement during a meeting with the BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI). “By focusing on mass timber, we have an opportunity to transition the forestry sector to high-value over high-volume production. This will mean opportunities for local workers, strong partnerships with First Nations and greater economic opportunity while making a significant contribution to advancing CleanBC.”

The province stated last year it had goals to increase the use of mass timber in capital construction projects like the new St. Paul’s Hospital and the replacement of the Royal BC Museum.

“These are high-value wood products that are shining examples of our government’s commitment to create jobs using our publicly-owned natural resources,” said Doug Donaldson, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, in a press release. “I’m confident that Ravi will hit the ground running and find even more opportunities to use this world-renowned product.”

Mass timber buildings use solid or engineered wood products as the main load-bearing structure. The result is a far lighter building than concrete methods that also meets performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection, the government release stated.

“British Columbia is a leader in the use of mass timber as an innovative way to reduce the carbon footprint of our building sector while supporting good jobs for people in communities across the province,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. “Ravi Kahlon is thoughtful and hard-working, and the right choice to grow new opportunities in this sector that will help us meet our CleanBC goals to build a cleaner, better future for everyone.”

One of Kahlon’s tasks will be to engage with local governments, industry and the construction sector. He will also work with Housing Minister Selina Robinson who will serve as the new assistant deputy minister of mass timber implementation. As well, Kahlon will reach out to Michelle Mungall, minister of jobs, Forest Innovations Investment Ltd. to assist in their efforts to build new markets for mass timber products.

“Mass timber is key to diversifying and creating a more resilient forest sector,” said Kahlon. “I look forward to working with my government colleagues, COFI and the forest industry, construction sector and local governments to promote made-in-B.C. wood products and their use in our public and private sector buildings.”

Kahlon’s mandate includes creating and leading a joint industry/government steering committee, which will meet semi-annually, to provide guidance and input on the province’s efforts.

“Expanding the use of sustainably harvested, low-carbon wood products in B.C. buildings will help combat climate change and support getting people back to work in forestry-related jobs across the province,” said Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of COFI. “We know that B.C. can become the ‘Harvard of green building,’ the place the world looks to for the next big idea on how to use our forest resources to support better choices for the planet.”