The Cement Association of Canada (CAC) is unhappy with the new building guide in Quebec allowing 12-storey wood structures. The group alleges the guide is part of a pro-wood agenda and potentially puts the public at risk.

However, the organization behind the guide is not addressing the allegations head on.

“As a research institute, who focuses on scientific evidence, we prefer to stay out of public debates of this type,” said Terry Knee, director of communications for FPInnovations, the private research centre hired by the Quebec government to produce the guide.

The CAC alleged that the government bypassed the rigorous building code development process and said FPInnovations is “dedicated to supporting the Canadian forest industry.”

According to its own website, FPInnovations is a not-for-profit private scientific researcher that specializes in the creation of scientific solutions in support of the Canadian forest sector’s global competitiveness.

The website states that FPInnovations responds to the priority needs of its industry members and government partners.

The CAC went on to call the process questionable. The guide was launched earlier last week by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

According to the CAC, the guide is not recognized by the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) and FPInnovations is not a standards development organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

The CAC went on to argue that the construction of cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings and taller wood buildings is not recognized by the National Building Code (NBCC).

The CAC also noted that a proposal to include CLT building systems in the 2015 edition of the NBCC was voluntarily withdrawn by FPInnovations.

According to the CAC, the Quebec government is allowing measures that are not recognized by the codes or standards developed by accredited organizations in order to “directly support the wood industry, to the possible detriment of public safety.”

The CAC also points out that the use of CLT building systems is no more – and perhaps much less – environmentally friendly than the use of other building systems already recognized in the code, when one considers the full life cycle of the building.

“All Quebecers have a right to expect that a rigorous process is being upheld and followed when it comes to the development of codes and standards. We have long held that governments should not get involved in the choice of building materials and systems and should leave this to the experts,” said Michael McSweeney, CAC president and CEO.

“Like the rest of Canada, Quebec has little experience in the construction of six-storey wood buildings – how can we venture into the construction of even taller wood buildings? The government has a duty to protect the health of its citizens, not that of a particular industry.”

The Journal of Commerce recently interviewed FPInnovations CEO Pierre Lapointe about the guide.

He explained that the guide is the result of years of testing wood structures with fire, humidity, loads and seismic conditions, which show tall wood structures are safe.

He also said Canada has one of the world’s leading wood building industries and is poised to become a global exporter of wood building knowledge and technology.