Policy & Positions Manual
Provincial Issues - Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Amend the Wood First Act (2012)
It is unacceptable for the BC Government to legislate a preference for one building material, in this case wood, by excluding alternative, viable and competitive, made-in-BC and or Canada materials, from the BC publicly funded construction market. The objective of the proposed amendments is to remove legislated material preference and to differentiate marketing and promotion, from prescriptive procurement practices.
Preamble / Background Information
The core problem is that through the Wood First Act, the BC Government has legislated as a requirement, “the use of wood as the primary building material in all provincially funded buildings”. The Wood First Act is contrary to the performance and procurement policies and methods currently governed by the BC Government’s Capital Asset Management Framework (CAMF), which actively promotes and ensures openness, fairness, transparency, and inclusiveness. The Wood First Act eliminates these fundamental equalities within our provincially funded built environment.
Wood, concrete, steel, bricks, glass, aluminum, etc., are common building components used in the construction of most structures in BC. Each product is used where it is technically, environmentally, economically, and practically the best product for the job. Most buildings in BC use a blend of these components, the mix being determined by a broad array of professionals and skilled craftsmen-engineers, architects, designers, contractors, numerous trade professionals; even fire chiefs, insurance agents, accountants, lawyers, and bankers have input.
The National Building Code of Canada (NBC) serves as the basis for specifying materials, testing, design, and construction. The NBC and British Columbia’s Building Code (BCBC) are objective-based codes intended to facilitate the selection and use of any and all materials that satisfy its stated objectives and performance requirements. The codes are specifically intended not to limit the application and use of any material, component, or assembly. The Wood First Act undermines the effectiveness and credibility of the National and BC Building Codes. It undermines the spirit of competition to achieve higher performances through research and development. It subordinates and marginalizes other preferred properties not characterized by wood.
This proposed initiative, to amend the Wood First Act, is based upon the fact that the BCBC already provides the needed flexibility for design professionals to appropriately select construction materials. The very fact that our Building Code prescribes certain conditions under which construction materials, including wood, cannot be used is evidence that no material is always the most appropriate choice. Publicly funded construction should respect our BC Building Code, its philosophy for development, content, application, and credibility. A policy for preferential choice of a particular building material does not respect these.
The Wood First Act limits and undermines the freedom of design professionals and experienced contractors to select the most appropriate construction material for its intended function and service. Legislation that compels or influences design professionals to specify “the preferred” product for use, where it is not suited to the function or service, has attendant risks. Consequences include an increased likelihood of non-performance, premature failure, and higher initial costs for construction or ongoing costs for repair and maintenance. The selection of appropriate building materials must remain the purview of those qualified and licensed to practice in the area of building design and construction. The BC building environment is founded on this principle - choose the right building material for the right job.
It is important to state that this resolution to amend the Wood First Act is not to oppose the wood industry or to limit any level of government in the promotion of wood products anywhere. All Chambers across BC support a healthy wood industry. The foundation of the policy proposal is that it is neither good nor acceptable public policy for our BC Government to legislate a procurement preference for one building material, in this case wood, by excluding alternative, viable, and competitive BC construction materials. All construction materials should operate on a level playing field and in a competitive, fair, and open economic environment.
a) Costs Incurred By Business
The reality of legislated preference and gain for the wood industry at the expense of other supplier industries does not create any net new jobs. The only result is the loss of economic activity and job loss within other BC industries.
The solution is to amend the Wood First Act through a motion passed in the BC legislature.
No construction material or assembly should be awarded a legislated priority over others. Let professional judgment, practical application, fair competition, and respect for our Building Codes system determine the best materials for the application and service. To achieve these goals, the BC Wood First Act must be amended.
The Chamber recommends that the Provincial Government amend the Wood First Act in a manner that eliminates the legislated preference for wood as a primary building material in all provincially funded buildings, and takes away the authority of the Forestry Minister, to prescribe and advise on the form and content and arrangements for the design and construction of provincially funded buildings.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the Provincial Government:
revise Section 2, Purpose: from “requiring the use of wood as the primary building material in all new provincially funded buildings” to “The purpose of this Act is to facilitate and promote the culture of wood through the marketing and promotion of wood as a building material, consistent with the British Columbia Building Code”; and
strike Section 3 (b) & (c) which empowers the prescriptive interference of the Forestry Minister in the building procurement process. The Forestry Minister has been given the legal authority to (b) advise on the form and content of agreements and other arrangements for the design or construction of provincially funded buildings: (c) carry out prescribed responsibilities.