Wood construction has been booming all over the world in the past few years, as projects for higher and higher wood buildings have been undertaken in various countries, including Canada. In fact, Canada is an active, committed participant in this rebirth of wood as a green, sustainable, safe building material for construction.
Last September, in order to take stock of the situation, the city of Bordeaux in France hosted Woodrise 2017—the first world conference on mid- and high-rise wood construction. One of the objectives of the event, organized jointly by FPInnovations (Canada), Institut technologique FCBA (France) and Building Research Institute (Japan), was to bring together all public and private stakeholders in the construction of wood buildings industry and to involve them in sharing knowledge and development of this sector on a global scale.
To sum up this four-day conference, attended by over 1500 delegates, a daylong review session was simultaneously held in five cities in Quebec on October 4. Spearheaded by Réseau Espace-Bois and CESAM, this 2017 Woodrise review gave various researchers and delegates an opportunity to report on the conference and present prospects for the Canadian wood construction industry.
Canada’s public policies on wood construction are influenced by the abundance of forests and raw material, and so the guidelines issued are largely aimed at promoting green job creation and climate change mitigation. To this end, the federal government has put in place numerous measures to encourage research and promote wood construction, including the revision of building codes and standards. Canada can count on the support of the provinces in this endeavour, through numerous organizations committed to encouraging wood construction, by providing various tools to businesses. By way of comparison, France’s policies are more geared toward environmental performance and energy management, whereas in Japan, the focus is on the individual and human well-being.
According to the findings of a recent study conducted by Forest Economic Advisors on behalf of Cecobois, the market share of wood construction in Quebec has significantly increased. At the same time, the growing number of construction sites is giving rise to an upswing in the supply of structural products. However, there is great potential ahead and the existing players in this field are continuing to develop tools and training.
Construction codes and standards in Canada
The Woodrise event provided an opportunity to share the results of tests being carried out in Canada on the various properties of wood buildings. For example, although acoustic performance is a problem related primarily to occupants’ comfort, it requires guidelines and practical solutions that are developed on the basis of in situ research on mid- and high-rise wood buildings.
As for fire safety, various tests are regularly conducted around the world, including many tests in Canada, to ensure that wood components meet the standards, i.e., that they limit both the spread of fire beyond the point of origin and the weakness of structural elements. These tests prove the excellent acoustic performance and fire resistance of solid wood construction systems. These findings will be used in designing safe, NBC-compliant buildings. In a global assessment, it was noted that there are more stringent fire safety requirements in Canada than in Europe (although some countries are ahead of Canada in this area).
International Woodrise Alliance: a collective action for carbon neutrality
The Bordeaux conference also served as a launching platform for the Woodrise International Alliance—a collective effort to achieve carbon neutrality by increasing the proportion of wood in construction. Bringing together stakeholders committed to the increased use of wood and wood structural elements as a solution to reduce the environmental footprint of buildings, the Alliance’s main goal is to foster international synergy, identify good practices in wood usage and evaluate the use of wood on an international scale.
Many countries have responded to the appeal launched by Alain Juppé, former Prime Minister of France and President of Bordeaux Metropole, and have already placed their signature on the Alliance. At the same time, a memorandum of understanding was signed by six national research centres: Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnologicas do Estado de São Paulo S. A. (Brazil), FPInnovations (Canada), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (Finland), Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnologicas do Estado de São Paulo (Brazil), FPInnovations (Canada), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Finland), Institut Technologique FCBA and Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment – CSTBuiltiment – CSTB (France) as well as Lignum, Économie suisse du bois (Switzerland).
Continuing the work undertaken
The Woodrise 2017 conference provided a platform for participating countries to share information and update their mutual understanding of wood construction. It also gave them the opportunity to assess their performance from an international perspective. Canada is enjoying wonderful development in medium- and high-rise wood construction and is continuing to create and fine-tune innovative systems.
The event far surpassed attendance expectations and proved to be an outright success for both the organizers and the participants, who were able to find out about all topics relating to the wood construction ecosystem. A second edition of the conference is, in fact, already planned for October 2019 in Quebec City.