How Vancouver’s New City Zoning is Driving Mass Timber Use

Just days out from the introduction of the British Columbia Building and Fire Codes (BC Codes 2024), the city of Vancouver is incentivising developers who use mass timber construction systems in the next generation of projects.

Fri 01 Mar 24


The Vancouver City Council has approved a motion and will now amend the city’s zoning and development bylaw to incentivise and accelerate mass timber construction for new buildings taller than six storeys.

It comes just days before a revised British Columbia Building and Fire Codes (BC Codes 2024) will go into effect, allowing British Columbia developers to build all-timber buildings up to 18 storeys – a 50% increase permitted under the existing code – bringing it into line with the US.

Under the new rezoning rules, new buildings, which would typically allow for eight to eleven storeys, can qualify for an additional two storeys and buildings in areas that will enable for twelve or more storeys can be eligible for three further storeys if they opt for mass timber and hybrid construction systems.

Vancouver has one of the highest housing markets in Canada. Under the new British Columbia Housing Plan, the province has identified mass timber as a preferred system to drive mid-rise and high-rise construction. The footage is courtesy of @RMTransit.

Vancouver is one of Canada’s most densely populated cities, characterised by high-rise and mixed-use development, with the city now looking to “provide additional support at the pre-application stage for those looking to build with mass timber,” according to a statement attributed to the council.

According to a letter submitted to the council by the Urban Development Institute (UDI) industry association, carbon reductions and increased construction efficiency are among the reasons Vancouver should encourage mass timber construction.

“We were pleased to see included in the proposals increases in density and height, allowing the mass timber incentives to be combined with other city incentives such as those for below-market housing, and the ability to apply these incentives to hybrid buildings as long as mass timber comprises over 50 per cent of the building materials,” according to Canada’s UDI president and CEO Anne McMullin said in the letter.

Known as "M5" and the "Prototype" it is the largest mass timber construction project designed exclusively for the build-to-rent sector. (Photo Credit: Henriquez Partners Architects/Westbank)
This month, the city approved “M5,” the largest mass timber construction project designed exclusively for the build-to-rent sector. (Photo Credit: Henriquez Partners Architects/Westbank)

Under new changes to the British Columbia Building and Fire Codes (BC Codes 2024), which will come into effect on March 1, 2024, changes will allow more exposed mass timber or fewer layers of encapsulation in buildings, depending on the building’s height, and more building types using mass timber construction, such as schools, shopping centres, and industrial facilities.

“It’s a game-changer, offering significant environmental benefits by reducing emissions compared to typical concrete buildings. It’s affordable and safe, but stands strong against fires and earthquakes,” according to Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim.

Experts say mass timber material offers several benefits compared to steel and concrete, including sustainability and speed, with Prime Minister Trudeau now pushing for the material to be the solution to the nationwide housing crisis – footage courtesy of @CBCNews.

The Justin Trudeau-led Canadian government has identified mass timber construction systems as crucial to the future of urban development not only in the built-up areas of Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary but nationwide, with a task group pushing to get the changes – proposed for British Columbia recognised in the national building code.

Wood Central understands that once the public comment period, until January, the provinces and territories will consider the codes for adoption in local construction codes and future consideration in the national building codes. 

Until now, British Columbia only allows mass timber buildings up to 12 storeys – which is nonetheless higher than Australia (8 storeys), the UK (6 storeys) and New Zealand (3 storeys).


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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