Brock Commons

At 18 storeys, Brock Commons in Vancouver is one of the world’s tallest mass-timber buildings.

Wood buildings will soon reach new heights in Kelowna.

Councillors directed city staff Tuesday to submit an expression of interest to the province for an initiative to build taller mass-timber buildings.

In March, the province announced it would be proactively adopting building code changes that allow wood buildings to increase to 12 storeys from six storeys. It’s now seeking B.C. cities to become early adopters.

Coun Ryan Donn said he’s heard a lot of support from the public. However, he has heard questions about potential fire risks.

City staff said officials from the Kelowna Fire Department are in support of building taller with wood.

Coun. Gail Given said people assume that 18 storeys is stick-frame construction, but it’s not. Tall wood construction involves encapsulated mass-timber, which uses gypsum board and concrete topping to prevent fire.

“This was a really exciting report for me to see come forward,” said Given, adding she hopes to see developers come forward with proposals.

B.C. is currently home to one of the world’s largest mass-timber towers, the 18-storey Brock Commons Tallwood House at the University of B.C. Vancouver campus. It provides housing to more than 400 students.

Local governments throughout B.C. have been invited by the Office of Housing and Construction Standards to become early adopters of mass-timber technology.

To participate, municipal governments require support from city council, as well as the planning, building and fire departments.

The federal 2020 National Building Code is expected to allow mass-timber construction up to 12 storeys.

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What are the benefits to the City of Kelowna of increasing the allowable wood-building height?

— Brand new additional

construction method to choose from

— About one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete building

— Positive economic implications

— Helping to grow local and global markets

— Ease of assembly for the development industry

— Learning opportunity for city staff

— Climate-friendly construction

— City of Kelowna