Vancouver, BC, City Council Takes Steps to Remove Barriers to Mass Timber Construction

The Vancouver, BC, City Council has taken its first steps toward creating a new policy program to “remove barriers to mass timber” and encourage more developers to utilize the building form, Storeys reported (2-7-24).

The city said it has conducted consultations with developers, development consultants, and architects and that additional density was “one of the most compelling incentives” that was identified. The proposed Mass Timber Policy for Rezonings would allow additional height and density through the rezoning process, allowing up to two additional stories on sites that currently allow for 8 to 11 stories, and up to three additional stories on sites that currently allow for 12 or more stories.

Projects that take advantage of the incentives must still meet the use and tenure requirements specified in the area plan, and other factors such as urban design considerations, view cones, and shadow impacts will still be evaluated and considered by the city, Storeys reported.

On the other hand, for projects that are not seeking rezoning, the City’s policies currently allow the Director of Planning to increase the allowable height by 6% to accommodate mass timber construction. Staff is recommending that this be increased to 10% and that it be allowable outright rather than through a conditional review process. “This change provides an incentive for sites that are not undergoing a rezoning process,” City staff said in a report to Council, according to Storeys. “Making the regulation outright also increases certainty for proponents at the earliest stages of the process.”

The city said it will also be providing additional support to those looking to utilize mass timber construction on a new project. Staff from the Development Planning, Building, and Project Facilitation groups will convene for consultation during the development enquiry stage, before an application is officially submitted, which the city says is a response to those in the industry who said the “uncertainty of entering into the permit process with a new building form” was something that offset the advantages of using mass timber construction.

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