From yesterday's B.C. Throne Speech:
The more we look for ways to use wood, the more we will expand our wood markets.
New legislation will require wood as the primary building material in all new publicly-owned and provincially-funded buildings, consistent with the new B.C. Building Code.
We will lead the way in safe, six-storey wood frame construction that lowers building and housing costs.
Where wood can be employed in building designs for new structural purposes, such as the new Richmond Olympic Oval, it will be.
Where wood can be incorporated into trim and finishing, it will be - inside and out.
This will create a culture of wood that looks to wood first.
British Columbia will also push for a new Canadian "wood first" policy that can create new domestic demand for Canadian wood products.
Architects, designers, engineers and builders all need to help drive that vision.
This initially struck me as slightly insane, since it conjures images of government meetings and high school classes being run out of log cabins. An architect friend has enlightened me somewhat as to the merits of building with heavy timber, notably from a safety point of view, and makes a case for something approaching a cohesive stylistic vision.
As my friend points out, recent winners of the Governor General's Medals in Architecture, particularly those from B.C., have been pretty wood-heavy. So perhaps Gordon Campbell hasn't completely gone off the deep end in his bid to prop up his province's lumber industry.
That being said, there seems to be some confusion in the government's messaging.
Employing wood "for new structural purposes" or "into trim and finishing" where possible, as the Throne Speech pledges, seems reasonable enough. But legislating that ALL new public buildings have to be built with wood as the "primary building material," as the same Throne Speech promises a few sentences earlier, seems like a massive overreach that could forestall needed infrastructure or cause it to be constucted with less than optimal efficiency.
The best compromise seems like something akin to an affirmative-action policy, wherein if there's a choice between wood and another material of equal merit - or between two building plans of relatively equal merit, one of which involves wood and the other of which doesn't - the wood will get preferential treatment. That would be a good way to promote the, ahem, "culture of wood that looks to wood first" - provided that Campbell can find a way of describing it that doesn't sound quite as goofy.