Local Solutions to Mass Timber Barriers


SFU’s Renewable Cities has assembled an interdisciplinary project team to engage municipalities and various stakeholders of the feasibility of mass timber in British Columbia.

Innovations in value-added structural wood products have advanced significantly over the past decade. This has opened new markets for wood beyond traditional low rise stick buildings to taller and more complex buildings. Wood is increasingly being seen as the building material of the future for its low carbon footprint, capacity for mass pre-fab production, quieter and faster construction, and other reasons.  

With the launch of the Mass Timber Action Plan in early 2022, the B.C. Government has identified Mass Timber (MT) as a major priority for forest-based communities across the province and has announced several measures to invest in value-added timber products, including prefabrication mass timber wood buildings. Mass timber products are highly engineered, solid, structural load-bearing components such as columns, beams and panels. It has the potential to make a new generation of high-performance buildings possible.  

In response to this potential, the Province of B.C. amended the BC Building Code to allow Mass Timber buildings up to 12 storeys/120 feet using encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC). This change was introduced in the fall of 2019 on a “pilot basis”. To date, 22 local jurisdictions in B.C. have opted into the EMTC provisions as ‘early adopters’ and province-wide adoption of these provisions is anticipated in 2022.  

Despite tremendous interest, significant barriers, nevertheless, exist for scaling large, complex prefab wood buildings including steady market demand to provide confidence for capitalizing expensive manufacturing plants, widespread professional knowledge, and traditional construction practice inertia. 

SFU’s Renewable Cities has assembled an interdisciplinary project team to work with B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, Forestry Innovation Investment, and BC Hydro to engage the 22 pilot municipalities and various other stakeholders to better understand and potentially find ways to remove any key barriers that might exist at the local level. 


Phase One

Phase Two

Phase Three

Identifying land use policies that inadvertently obstruct prefabricated and encapsulated mass timber construction (EMTC) and possible solutions.

Identifying building permit and design guideline challenges and possible solutions, while refining Phase 1 findings.  

Disseminating Phase 1 & 2 findings to key constituencies through an updated guidebook on barriers and breakthroughs and will include training and accredited education sessions for target audiences.


Our interdisciplinary project team assembled by Renewable Cities with the M.J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University involving the Building Officials Association of BC, Ecosse Development Corp, Penway Consulting and Scius Advisory Services.

Alex Boston, Renewable Cities & ZEBx, Fellow – SFU Centre for Dialogue | Project Director
Brad Doff, Renewable Cities, ENV SP, LEED Green Associate | Project Manager
Portrait of Gary Penway
Gary Penway, Penway Consulting, RPP MCIP | Land Use Policy Specialist
Norm Couttie, Ecosse Development Corp, Arch | MT Developer Specialist
Catherine Ernst, BOABC, Level 1 Building Inspector | Permitting & Inspection Advisor
Helen Goodland, Scius Advisory Services, Arch | MT & Building Innovation Advisor

Stay updated with us

If you would like to stay up to date with this project, be invited to upcoming workshops and be the first to receive the project updates. 


For more information, please contact Brad Doff (brad_doff@sfu.ca) at Renewable Cities.