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Ontario allows six-storey, wood-frame construction

Sept. 23, Toronto - Ontario developers can erect wood-frame buildings of up to six storeys starting Jan. 1, the province announced Tuesday morning.

September 23, 2014
By Laura King

Sept. 23, Toronto – Ontario developers can erect wood-frame buildings of up to six storeys starting Jan. 1, the province announced Tuesday morning.

“Through changes to the Ontario Building Code, wood frame buildings can now be built up to six storeys high, raising the limit from four storeys,” the government said in a release on its website.

Although final details of amendments to the Ontario Building Code to permit six-storey, wood-frame construction have not been fully released, the government said fire-safety measures such as the use of non-combustable materials in stairways, and roofs that are combustion-resistant, offer the highest degree of public and firefighter safety in Canada.

“The changes give builders a safe option that can help make building a home more affordable and support more attractive, pedestrian-oriented buildings that enhance streetscapes while continuing to protect the safety of residents and firefighters,” the government said.

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British Columbia has allowed six-storey, wood-frame construction since 2009. Changes to the national building code, upon which many provinces base their codes, will do the same in 2015.

The forestry industry has been lobbying for years for governments to allow for higher wood-frame buildings. Ontario’s legislation to amend the building code is called the Forestry Industry Revitalization Act.

Fire-service leaders, meanwhile, have cautioned lawmakers to ensure that there are mandatory fire-safety measures during the construction of six-storey wood-frame buildings, and to ensure that the structures include additional fire protection in case traditional measures – such as smoke alarms and sprinklers – fail during a fire.

Back in March, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs said it was glad the government had listened to its concerns about public and firefighter safety and incorporated full sprinklering of wood-frame buildings into the proposed code amendments.

Six-storey proponents such as The Canadian Wood Council reacted immediately to Tuesday’s announcement, saying the Ontario building-code change will have a direct impact on the forest industry.