Last month, the Cement Association of Canada (CAC) announced the debut of a national campaign to fight changes to the national building code that it said would put Canadians at risk. Within hours, those who promote six-story wood buildings responded, claiming that “health and safety remain top priorities for the wood industry.”
Michael McSweeney, president and CEO of CAC, dismissed this response as defensive and disingenuous. “Wood burns, concrete doesn’t,” said McSweeney. “Those who promote the interests of building with wood may not like that fact, but it’s a fact. And that’s why we – and firefighters like Carl Pearson, and many others – are stepping up to oppose the building code changes that would see mid-rise all-wood buildings permitted in Canada and demand the implementation of several provisions to mitigate the potential risks posed to vulnerable Canadians. The changes proposed by those who promote the construction of six-story wood buildings are the most significant in recent history. Their implications have not yet been fully and completely analyzed and in our opinion, the substantiation presented has been incomplete. We are choosing to err on the side of caution and on the side of safety in recommending a tempering of the proposed changes.
“As a country, we need to be developing building codes which just don’t meet some minimum standard. We need codes and regulations at all levels that reflect the best that we can do. Buildings standards that we can be proud of and that keep the most vulnerable safe. Because, make no mistake: those who promote building these types of wood buildings are in essence diluting building codes. Their drive to permit the building of five-, six- and even ten-story all-wood buildings will make our most vulnerable citizens less safe,” stated McSweeney.
At a press conference, McSweeney and Carl Pearson, past president of the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario, took aim at those who promote wood buildings efforts to dilute the national building code. In kicking off their national campaign, McSweeney and Pearson warned that the elderly, the disabled and new Canadians are most often found in multi-story buildings – and that, in the event of a fire in an all-wood structure – they will be the ones most at risk.
“Take it from a firefighter; the current practice of four-story wood construction is challenging enough for fire services,” Pearson said. “Taller combustible construction is dangerous and we all need to consider the lives of Canadians put at risk.”