Well, thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, everyone. It's quite an honour, of course, to be here testifying before my own committee. I didn't sleep last night because I was pretty keyed up about this.
I'm here obviously to talk about my private member's bill, Bill . It's such a short bill that I'm just going to read the one clause that is really all there is to the bill. It just amends the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act, I believe. I didn't put that in there. Under Use of Wood, proposed new subsection 7(1.1) would read:
|In awarding contracts for the construction, maintenance or repair of public works, federal real property or federal immovables, the Minister shall give preference to projects that promote the use of wood, taking into account the associated costs and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
That's basically it. It does state a clear preference for using wood, but that decision would be predicated on two tests, one that looks at the overall cost to the project and the materials used, and the other looking at the carbon footprint of the project.
I'm just going to open with a short piece on why I chose this bill and why I decided to move ahead with it. This bill brings together several themes that are important to me and, I think, to many Canadians. One is the support for the forest sector in Canada. This is one of the big natural resource sectors across our country, which built our country. It's important in almost every province. I don't need to go into much detail on why the forest sector needs our support. It's had several challenges in recent years, but suffice it to say that if we can develop new markets for our forest sector, both domestically and internationally, I think we can maintain and grow our forest industries, creating jobs and wealth across the country.
Second, it speaks specifically to the important role that buildings play in our carbon footprint as a country, as a society, and therefore, the important role they must play in our efforts to significantly reduce that footprint.
Third, although it's not specifically mentioned in the bill—but you all know it around this table—it's meant to promote engineered wood or mass timber construction. This innovative technology is taking hold in North America with the leading manufacturers being in Canada, both in British Columbia and Quebec. These companies, and others like them, would greatly benefit from government procurement that allowed them to grow and maintain this leading position in the continental market.
Now, there are other models of this bill out there. This is not a new idea. For one thing, there have been several bills like this that have been tabled in the House of Commons before, in past Parliaments. There are several pieces of legislation in provinces, notably in British Columbia and Quebec, and other countries, especially Europe. I would like to touch on some of these.
The first is the B.C. Wood First Act. This is an act that was brought in, in British Columbia, in 2009. Again, it's a fairly short and succinct piece of legislation, and the one paragraph that is really sort of half of that bill says:
||The purpose of this Act is to facilitate a culture of wood by requiring the use of wood as the primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings, in a manner consistent with the building regulations within the meaning of the Building Act.
It simply says that there should be a preference for using wood in provincially funded infrastructure. The Wood First Act has been successful in creating that culture of building with wood in British Columbia.
Michael Green, who appeared before us in our study on the value added aspects of the forest industry, is an architect, and he said that the Wood First Act has “made a big difference simply because it introduces the concept into the conversation”.
Bill Downing of Structurlam, one of the two main companies building mass timber products in Canada, said that the bill was a wake-up call that prompted B.C. architects, engineers, and contractors to consider wood in their projects and that it would be very helpful if the federal government did the same on a national scale.
Quebec also has a policy promoting the use of wood in government infrastructure called the "wood charter" and it states that:
||in every project financed wholly or partly by public funds, the project manager must consider the possibility of using wood before the project begins, and must carry out a comparative analysis of greenhouse gas emissions for different materials.
It goes on to say:
||A greenhouse gas emission measurement tool, which uses the tried-and-tested life cycle analysis method, is available to all professionals who wish to compare wood with other construction materials. The tool is reliable, effective and easy to use, and produces objective, standardized results that are easy to compare.
Other countries have similar policies. France offers incentives for meeting embodied carbon and net zero energy targets and has a plan to move from 5% wood buildings to 30% over the next 30 years. Other European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K., require or promote full life-cycle analysis and embodied carbon reporting for many or all large building projects.
I'm just going to go on with a few of the concerns I've heard about this bill in debate in the House. I think there are really three main areas. One is about fire safety. I just have to say that these mass timber buildings are very different from the wood stick construction, the two-by-four wood frame buildings. Numerous tests have shown them to be as safe as, or safer than, standard steel and concrete construction.
The NRC performed tests on walls and floors that were built by Nordic Structures, which is the main company in Quebec that produces these products, before they constructed a 13-storey building called Origine in Quebec. The walls and floors resisted fire for the three and a half hours of the test at 1,200 degrees Celsius, far longer than the standard two hours that is required for that test.
Another test used a mock-up of rooms with stair and elevator shafts, and in spite of a full-scale blaze in the room, there was no detectable increase in temperature or smoke in the vertical shaft.
In British Columbia, where several buildings have been constructed using this method, fire chiefs are generally comfortable with mass timber construction and I hope we can get one of them here before us to talk about that. In fact, one of the newly built wood buildings in the province is the Qualicum Beach fire hall.
Another theme in the concerns I've heard is about trade and exposure to trade concerns, free trade agreements where there might be some issues about restricting what we build our buildings with. I assume we would have heard about these trade concerns if there were any legitimate ones. We've had a B.C. Wood First Act for nine years. No one who I know of has come forward with issues about that, and the same with the Quebec policies. I think in this litigious atmosphere we live in, in terms of other countries going to the WTO or NAFTA, we would have heard about concerns on those policies.
This bill specifically does not use the word...it's a "use wood" bill, it's not a "use Canadian wood" bill. I think that protects it as well. If we said, you must use Canadian wood to build buildings, then I think we might hear some complaints. It might have some serious trade implications.
I also think that the dual test of the cost and the carbon footprint of the project will allay other trade agreement concerns, but we'll hear from department witnesses on that. I've heard from British Columbia that they feel their act stands that test because they don't say “use B.C. wood”. I've heard from the Forest Products Association of Canada that it's that dual test that is also useful in protecting trade concerns.
The other concern I've heard is that this bill picks winners and losers. It says that we should prefer to use wood and not other products like concrete or steel. Of course, those industries will likely express some concerns about that.
To that I would say, first, building large buildings with wood is a very new thing. Only about 5% of our buildings use wood as a structural component, so even if we doubled or tripled that market share, it wouldn't affect the cement and steel industries significantly.
Second, in talking to the cement industry, they came to my offices and perhaps to yours as well with a specific ask of the government. Their ask was that they wanted projects to be looked at with the dual lens of carbon footprint and overall lifetime cost. That's exactly what this bill asks. Cement feels that they would do well in that test, and that would be great. If they use those lifetime cost analyses and come out ahead, then I think that's great because it will have achieved what I think is really important in our building, and that is to reduce our greenhouse gases, our carbon footprint. I would be happy, and they would be happy.
Third, most of the buildings using this mass timber construction are hybrid buildings of some sort. The first floor is often fully concrete. They use steel in the elevator shafts. A lot of them use cement in flooring for sound issues and heating. These buildings will use a lot of those other materials as well, so all sectors would benefit from this new construction.
I'll just close by saying that this bill is about giving wood a chance. We are facing a dramatic change in how we construct buildings, and Canadian companies are on the forefront of that change now in North America. Europe is way ahead of us. Government procurement would allow that sector to grow and maintain the leadership position. We need to actively promote the use of wood in new buildings during this shift, so that we don't lose out to American and European products and technologies.
This bill is about nurturing that culture of using and building with wood; creating beautiful, safe buildings with a low carbon footprint; and supporting the Canadian forest industry from coast to coast.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources in regard to the private member's bill, Bill , an act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act with respect to use of wood.
To begin, I want to acknowledge that wood and wood products are indeed important contributors to the Government of Canada's infrastructure needs. For example, Public Services and Procurement Canada, alone, is already spending approximately $160 million a year, on average, for office fit-ups and interior finishes, of which approximately 15% is directly related to the use of wood products. We believe that, in order to have a complete discussion on this topic, we need to first set the stage by sharing with you the important work that PSPC has undertaken and is continuing to undertake to support the Government of Canada's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This includes PSPC's current policies and practices associated with the use of sustainable materials.
PSPC's commitment to sustainable government operations is enshrined in our policies, frameworks, procedures, and tools that govern the design, construction, and operations of our assets. In support of the federal sustainable development strategy and as part of our department's mandate, we are firmly committed to making government operations more sustainable with the green building practices and other initiatives. This includes using sustainable materials, moving toward optimizing our space use, and lowering the energy consumption of our federal buildings.
To put this into context for you, buildings are significant emitters of greenhouse gases and contribute 23% of Canada's overall GHG emissions. As providers of accommodation to the Government of Canada, our department is in the unique position to have a direct and significant impact on the greening of government operations. PSPC is the first federal department to complete a national carbon-neutral portfolio plan that takes into account all real property–related greenhouse gas emissions and energy reduction initiatives that we have undertaken. An example of this includes the investment we have made in the energy services acquisition program, through which we are modernizing the heating and cooling system that serves approximately 80 buildings in Ottawa. This includes many of the buildings on and around Parliament Hill. In advance of this modernization effort, we are currently piloting and testing wood chips for use as a possible biomass fuel. The results will help determine the potential for expanding this option to other federal heating and cooling plants.
PSPC has also undertaken a leadership position in embedding GHG reductions in project design. By undertaking a comparative analysis of the cost versus GHG emissions reductions for different project design options over a 25-year life cycle, decision-makers are able to select the best balance between fiscal and GHG emission considerations.
For example, in the case of the Arthur Meighen Building in Toronto, designing for the minimum departmental requirements would lead to a 24% reduction in GHG emissions as compared to the current building. However, by incorporating additional sustainability requirements, it is possible for the project to achieve a substantial GHG emission reduction of 88% with a minimal net increase in life-cycle costs over 25 years, that increase being $13 million or 5.6%.
As part of PSPC's commitments under the federal sustainable development strategy and pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, we are committed to designing projects and buildings to meet sustainable performance standards such as leadership in energy and environmental design, LEED, and Green Globes. These performance standards encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts.
For example, PSPC's Quebec City regional office, which was completed in 2012, is certified LEED gold and is currently the most energy efficient building in our portfolio. Another example is the Greenstone Government of Canada Building in downtown Yellowknife. Completed in 2005, the Greenstone Building was the first building above the 60th parallel that was certified LEED gold, representing a remarkable achievement in this unique environment.
PSPC's policies, standards, and tools set out a holistic approach to fostering sustainable practices, which include the use of sustainable building materials in construction and renovation projects that meet performance requirements while also giving appropriate consideration to environmental and economic factors.
As well, through the delivery of a range of real property services to, and in collaboration with, other government departments, PSPC is provided with opportunities to understand demand, aggregate similar needs, and develop proposals that will reduce the Government of Canada's overall footprint in GHG. The National Building Code of Canada, or the building code, allows the use of wood and other combustible construction materials in structural elements for buildings up to six storeys in height, unless it can be demonstrated that they can perform in the same way as non-combustible construction materials. In alignment with the building code, PSPC continues to allow wood to be considered in the design and construction of federal buildings.
The next speaker from Natural Resources Canada will brief you on other actions the Government of Canada is taking to support the use of wood, and more generally, to reduce the GHG emissions. This includes innovative research and development that could result in updating the building code to allow wood buildings up to 12 storeys and beyond. We are following this closely and are excited by the material use possibilities these potential changes could bring. As you can see, there is so much that we are already doing to implement holistic, integrated project design that takes into account the use of sustainable materials like wood to reduce GHG emissions.
The Government of Canada and PSPC are committed to fairness, openness, and transparency in the procurement processes, principles that are also deeply enshrined in both policy and law. Canadians expect the government to adhere to the principles of fairness in procurement. With this in mind, PSPC is committed to ensuring that, through the procurement process, it does not give preference to one building material over all others. These commitments support Canada's obligations under key trade agreements such as the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, or CFTA, and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
For example, the CFTA prohibits discrimination among the goods or services of a particular province or region. Giving preference to projects that promote one primary material—in this case, wood—may be interpreted as discrimination against regions that do not supply this material. Similarly, as a technical specification, referring to a particular type of material for which no alternative is permitted could be interpreted as creating unnecessary obstacles to trade.
To conclude, PSPC initiatives and policies reaffirm our commitment to protecting the environment and to ensuring a fair, open, and transparent procurement process for all suppliers. PSPC continues to work to integrate many sustainable practices in our operations and to take an integrated and holistic approach to project design and construction, which includes the use of a variety of sustainable materials while giving appropriate consideration to environmental, social, and economic factors.
Thank you. My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer any of your questions at the end of the opening statements.
My last name is pronounced “cozy”, so think about being comfortable or cozy by a biomass fire.
I think Mr. Cannings read my speaking points last night, so I hope this is incremental and not just duplicative.
I also want to introduce my colleague Mohammad Mohammad. He's an engineer with a specialization in engineered wood as well as tall wood buildings. I'm happy to have him here today also.
We're very happy to be here today to talk about advanced timber construction in Canada. The purpose of this presentation is to provide a snapshot of how wood is used in construction in Canada, how it has evolved over time, and where the future might lie with respect to wood use. The presentation will also indicate how the Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, has supported the use of wood in construction.
Wood is often combined with other materials such as concrete and steel in construction. We call this hybrid construction. Hybrid wood construction provides a cost-effective and sustainable solution in building, as well as options to improve building performance and design. By capitalizing on the best attributes of each material, architects and specifiers have an opportunity to optimize their design when constructing taller and larger buildings. The popularity of building materials like wood that come from renewable resources is increasing worldwide. Wood-based materials, over their life cycle, use less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional energy-intensive construction materials. Given this, wood can help reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment.
I know we circulated a presentation in advance. You'll see that many mid-rise and tall wood buildings were quite common across Canada until the early 1940s. This included the nine-storey Kelly Douglas Building in downtown Vancouver, which is over 115 years old and still operational.
Construction of such buildings stopped mainly due to the introduction of modern building codes in 1941, where limits on wood building height and area were introduced. Wood, however, remains the commonly used material in the construction of residential housing in Canada, and over 90% of all Canadian and American homes are constructed with wood today.
New engineered wood products came onto the market in the 1980s and the 1990s and generated an interest to start considering wood in non-residential and taller buildings. New composite products offer strength properties and safety performance on par with more traditionally used construction materials and are now commonplace in certain structural applications.
I want to underscore that prefabricated mass timber components such as CLT, or cross-laminated timber, provide more options to designers and builders and help expand the use of wood in non-traditional applications. CLT is made of wood strips stacked cross-wise on top of each other, and they're either glued or nailed. There are two major producers of CLT in Canada, which Mr. Cannings spoke to earlier; one in B.C. and one in Quebec. CLT has been shown to have strong seismic and fire resistance capacity. It also benefits as a building material for quick, on-site assembly.
I want to speak to the building code changes in Canada. With the development of new engineered wood building products and the move toward the use of wood in construction in non-residential and taller building applications, there was a need to re-examine and assess Canada's building codes with respect to wood. Until recently, four storeys was the maximum height. As you know, in Canada, there's a national building code and then each of the provinces has its own provincial building code. Those provincial codes are often modelled after the national code. The Province of British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in Canada to permit wood frame construction up to six storeys tall, in 2009. Our work with the National Research Council and FPInnovations led to the updating of the National Building Code of Canada in 2015 to six storeys. Several provinces have also updated their codes, and now most jurisdictions across the country allow wood frame construction up to six storeys.
I want to give you a picture of how our support helped lead to the approval of six-storey wood frame construction in the National Building Code of Canada. Extensive fire engineering, structural, and acoustics research was undertaken by the National Research Council and FPInnovations to ensure that wood structures could be safely constructed to higher heights. Demonstration buildings were constructed in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec to showcase new innovative wood products in mid-rise and non-residential applications. We and the provinces supported the Canadian Wood Council and its Wood WORKS! program, which provides education and training for architects, engineers, and builders on how to build with wood.
Last year, through the various activities of the Wood WORKS! program, more than 15,000 professionals have been reached and 45,000 hours of educational training provided. All these activities combined have helped increase wood product sales by approximately $940 million since the inception of the program in 1998.
Building code changes have had a big impact. Currently, there are close to 500 mid-rise wood buildings across Canada that are either built, under construction, or at the planning stage. Code development may not be sexy, but it can lead to real successes in the market. The number is expected to significantly increase in the coming years as building code changes are fully understood, particularly in Quebec and Ontario, our biggest provinces, where construction activity is booming and code changes have been relatively recent.
I want to speak to our tall wood building efforts. The acceptance of engineered wood products as viable building materials and the growing trend globally for taller wood buildings led to the Government of Canada's decision to implement a tall wood building demonstration initiative in 2013. This initiative was launched by NRCan to facilitate broader commercial and regulatory acceptance of wood in taller applications by showcasing advanced wood-based structural building solutions. The initiative resulted in two tall wood buildings in Canada, one in B.C. and one in Quebec. The Brock Commons Building at UBC stands currently as the tallest hybrid wood building in the world, putting Canada on the leading edge of advanced timber construction.
To ensure the safety of the two tall wood building demonstration projects, extensive research was completed. Research was funded by NRCan in the areas of fire resistance, structural integrity, building envelope, and acoustic parameters.
In the case of fire testing, as Mr. Cannings alluded to, a mock building, including a CLT shaft three storeys in height, was constructed and burned at an NRC testing facility. Fire officials from around the country were invited to view the fire demo, which demonstrated that the fire safety performance of the CLT elevator and stairwell shaft met and even exceeded existing building code requirements of non-combustible construction.
One of the many reasons that many jurisdictions around the world are moving toward wood construction is that wood can help reduce the carbon footprint in most buildings and lower greenhouse gas emissions created by the built environment. Several life-cycle assessment tools are currently available to help engineers, architects, and builders choose the material that reduces the environmental footprint of their building. A carbon calculator developed by the Canadian Wood Council was used to predict the carbon impact of the Brock Commons Building in Vancouver. Through this carbon calculator, the total greenhouse gas mitigation by using wood is estimated at 2,400 metric tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to the removal of about 511 cars off the road for a year.
We have an opportunity to discuss a new program of the Government of Canada to further stimulate market and regulatory acceptance of tall wood buildings. Through the pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change, budget 2017 provided $39.8 million over four years to encourage the increased use of wood products in construction and updated building codes. We call it a green construction through wood program, or GCWood. It aims to support increased use of wood in non-traditional construction projects such as tall wood buildings, low-rise commercial buildings, and bridges, by funding demonstration projects. GCWood will also provide resources to complete the necessary research work that would enable taller wood buildings to be permitted in the next cycle of the National Building Code of Canada in 2020.
Finally, GCWood will help develop costing tools as well as wood-based curriculum to increase knowledge of mass timber design. The GCWood program is anticipated to result in up to two megatonnes of carbon emissions avoided in 2030 and help Canada meet its climate change obligations as per the Paris accord.
In conclusion, the 21st century is experiencing a renaissance in wood construction. There is strong interest in the design community to use new innovative wood products or use them in combination with other building materials in the construction of cost-competitive hybrid buildings. Using wood is one strategic way that can help Canada reach its 2030 climate change target, while creating jobs for Canadians and opportunities for Canadian businesses.
Thanks for the opportunity to be here.
John described this very well. Mixed occupancy is where we're heading, basically a mix, let's say, where the first couple of storeys would be commercial, retail, offices, and others, while the rest of the buildings, especially in tall wood buildings, would be residential, condominiums, etc.
FPInnovations has actually conducted a market analysis study, with funding from NRCan. This is really what drives the research and our efforts, actually the market studies. We want to know what building sectors wood buildings could actually benefit. The tall wood building sweet spot, as John mentioned, is anywhere between, let's say, six and 12 storeys. But, really, it's all about opening up, looking at wood as a unique building material with all the advancements that have been mentioned by Mr. Cannings, John, and others.
It is necessary to not overlook wood as an innovative building material, and this is what we have been probably experiencing in Canada, and the same in the U.S. Wood has been overlooked by architects, by design artists, by engineers, and by the building codes to some extent. However, building codes are responding to those recent advancements in engineered wood products, recent advancements in connections, in design tools; so that's why we're able to change our building codes from a four- to a six-storey limit. Of course, we're ultimately pushing for a performance-based building code that will not differentiate between what type of construction or building material you will use. That will kind of level the playing field for all building materials: wood, concrete, steel, and others.