Frequently Asked Questions - General

Mass timber refers to solid or engineered wood with characteristics of solid wood that is used in the structure of a building.

  • Encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC) refers to buildings where the mass timber components of the building have been surrounded by fire-resistive material
  • Encapsulation delays the exposure of the wood structure to a fire, helping it to meet the strict safety requirements of the BC Building Code

Tall wood is a term used to describe mass timber buildings that are taller than six storeys in height.

Under the BC Building Code, tall wood buildings up to 12 storeys are permitted in participating jurisdictions provided they adhere to the new provisions for Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction.

The encapsulated mass timber construction component of the 2020 National Building Code has already been reviewed by the National Building Code committees as well as by experts such as fire safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists and builders.

The safety of any building is a function of how it is designed and constructed. Engineers and architects, through the responsibilities set by legislation and their professional associations, will be responsible for assuring that buildings are constructed according to the regulatory requirements.

For technical details on fire safety, please refer to the Tall Wood Technical Fire Safety FAQ section.

The main goal in a building fire is to get everyone out of a building safely. The BC Building Code sets requirements that must be met regardless of the construction material used. Mass timber buildings must have fire sprinklers throughout which are expected to suppress a fire sufficiently before there are impacts to building occupants.

In the rare event of a sprinkler system failure, the encapsulation of mass timber creates a barrier, which delays the time it takes for the mass timber to be exposed to the fire, providing time for occupants to exit the building.

The three way combination provides a sufficient level of fire safety

  1. active fire protection via sprinklers together with
  2. passive fire protection via the encapsulation materials along with
  3. the anticipated fire department response

For technical details on fire safety, please refer to the Tall Wood Technical Fire Safety FAQ section.

The new provisions include on-site water supply for firefighting, disposal of combustible refuse, fire safety for workers and progressive encapsulation to limit the amount of wood left unprotected during the construction phase.

All local governments who have signed on to participate have support from their local fire officials.

The Code requirements for seismic resistance in buildings are the same regardless of materials used in the construction of the building. An encapsulated mass timber building must meet the same standards as for steel or concrete.

The performance of any building is a function of how it is designed and constructed. Engineers and architects, through the responsibilities associated with their professions, assure that buildings are constructed to Code.

In some instances, such as in high seismic zones, composite buildings with a concrete or steel core would be a more practical approach to achieve Code requirements for seismic performance. Further research and development is underway to investigate all timber design solutions within high seismic zones.

The Building Act provides the Minister with the authority to adopt building regulations that apply to

  • The entire province like the BC Building Code 
  • A single building using a site-specific regulation
  • One or more local authorities by using a jurisdiction-specific regulation
  • The 2020 National Building Code will include a new construction type known as encapsulated mass timber
  • The 2020 National Building Code will allow for the use of encapsulated mass timber in buildings up to twelve storeys in height
  • B.C. has obtained permission from the National Research Council to use the encapsulated mass timber construction provisions from the 2020 National Building Code in this jurisdiction-specific regulation

 

The content on this page was updated by the Province of British Columbia on June 25, 2020.