The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) is raising concerns about wood-framed mid-rise buildings after a massive fire ripped through downtown Kingston in December.
The fire destroyed a wood student residence building under construction and threatened other nearby buildings.
The association is reiterating its call for greater fire safety provisions in the National Building Code of Canada.
"This fire is yet another example of the risks inherent to wood construction, especially during the construction phase," said Michael McSweeney, the association’s president and CEO in a statement. "We are very concerned about the fire safety risks to Canadians - including our first responders. Our building codes shouldn't set just the bare minimum standard, but strive to achieve the gold standard. Canadians should expect nothing less."
Groups like the Canadian Wood Council and the Ontario Home Builders Association are lobbying for amendments to national and provincial building codes that will allow for six-storey wood frame developments. There is a regulation currently capping construction on wood-framed buildings to four storeys.
The Cement Association has consistently said taller wood buildings jeopardize people’s safety at the expense of cost savings.
"While some are so focused on pushing forward with changes to increase the height of wood buildings in the building code, the real focus should be on whether current safety provisions for four storey wood buildings are in fact sufficient,” said McSweeney.
“This wood building in Kingston required additional fire fighting support, a helicopter rescue, resulted in evacuations in the community and caused fires in other buildings. How much worse could this have been had this wood structure been any higher?"
The CAC has launched a campaign to urge that Canadians' safety be the top priority before adopting proposed changes to the 2010 National Building Code of Canada that would permit the construction of five and six storey wood frame buildings.