Edmonton, ALTA — Encapsulated mass timber construction up to 12-storeys in building height is now permitted anywhere in Alberta. In March, the Alberta government, via its Municipal Affairs office, released a STANDATA which will increase the allowed height of mass timber buildings from six-storeys to 12-storeys.
The variance provides an alternative solution to the National Building Code 2019 Alberta Edition (NBC (AE)) and the National Fire Code 2019 Alberta Edition (NFC (AE)). These codes are based on the 2015 editions of each respective code book.
The National Building Code of Canada 2020 (NBC), National Fire Code of Canada 2020 (NFC), and the National Energy Code of Canada 2020 (NEC) were published in March 2022. They don’t have legislative authority until the Alberta government adopts the codes by regulation.
According to Bilt Alberta, both the building and fire code is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023, which would mean that it comes into force 12 months later in the first quarter of 2024. This is due to the province creating an automatic code adoption policy, which means national codes are adopted automatically upon publication and come into effect 12 months after the publication date.
The conditions for the new variance are based on the code provisions in the 2020 editions of the NBC and NFC. This means that when the 2020 codes, with some variances, are adopted, the requirements for encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC) of up to 12-storeys will essentially be unchanged.
Under the current model, prescriptive requirements in the NBC (AE) separate buildings into two categories — combustible and non-combustible construction.
“The provisions severely restrict the height and area of buildings of combustible construction, whereas they permit unlimited height and area for buildings of noncombustible construction. The combustible/noncombustible construction classification system was introduced in the national codes over 50 years ago and has increasingly been regarded as outdated and unnecessarily restrictive,” according to the STANDATA.
A STANDATA refers to a province-wide variance, interpretation or information bulletin related to safety codes and standards, which is issued by the Public Safety Division of Municipal Affairs in Alberta.