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CAC campaigns against increasing height of mid-rise wood buildings

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December 16, 2013 by STAFF REPORT

The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) has launched a national campaign to warn Canadians about the potential dangers of the proposed changes to the 2010 National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) regarding the height of wood buildings.

The CAC is strongly opposed to an amendment that would see the maximum height of wood buildings increase from four to six storeys.

Michael McSweeney, president and CEO of the CAC, and Carl Pearson, a first captain with the Thorold Fire & Emergency Services, held a press conference in Ottawa, Ont. last week to announce the campaign, which also advocates for increased fire safety measures not currently addressed in the NBCC.

McSweeney said those who promote wood buildings have been very successful in advocating for changes to the code to allow for taller wood buildings, but if implemented, the most vulnerable Canadians would be at risk.

“Seniors, the disabled, new Canadians, the less-well-off, and even latchkey kids are among those who may be found in high-density, more cheaply constructed wood buildings.  These citizens may be put at risk if this push for mid-rise wood buildings goes ahead without changes,” he said.

“The proposed changes have potentially life and death implications,” said Pearson, who is also a former president of the Fire Fighters’ Association of Ontario. “For firefighters, our number one concern is to safely rescue people, without casualties. If these proposed changes to the NBCC are implemented, Canadians’ lives could be at risk.”

McSweeney and Pearson are calling on government leaders to reconsider the dangers of allowing six storey wood buildings, and also to address areas they feel are not covered by the proposed changes to the code, such as:

  • Non-combustible stairwells and elevator shafts.
  • Constructing the exterior cladding and roof with non-combustible materials. 
  • Ensuring automatic sprinkler systems are in place as construction progresses.
  • Implementing a minimum level of non-combustible fire separation to prevent fire from spreading between adjoining wood frame buildings of this size.
  • Recognizing and addressing the safety needs of firefighters.

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes has been conducting a public review of proposed changes to the 2010 NBCC for the past two months and will continue to do so until December 23.