In an ongoing conflict over building materials for mid-rise offices and housing, the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute says the construction of 12-storey wooden buildings circumvents the Canadian building code process designed to ensure the safety of all Canadians.

The Quebec government approved a building guide that would allow for the construction of wooden buildings up to 12 stories earlier this month. In response, the Cement Association of Canada quickly criticized the move, calling the decision “questionable” and challenging whether or not it was in the public interest. The CPCI has now joined the fray.

“We may recall the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Dispute where the U.S. decided to level the playing field and which reduced Canadian Softwood Lumber exports drastically to the U.S. Since then, Canadian wood industry lobbyists have been looking for new marketplaces and touting the economic benefits of taller wood buildings to governments. So much so, that they are willing to legislate the use of wood and bypass the building code process,” the CPCI said.

The institute, which is the prime source of technical information about precast prestressed concrete in Canada, said one of the issues with the decision is the move toward less-proven materials and systems that appear to offer cheap solutions.

“Decisions should be made on the total cost of ownership, not the cheapest initial price,” the organization said. It said independent consultants have proven concrete buildings have exceptional longevity and low maintenance costs. The CPCI also pointed to the environmental benefits of concrete over its life cycle.

In addition to building code concerns the CPCI pointed to issues with wooden buildings during the construction phase as particularly troubling. The institute highlighted fires, mold prevention and health related problems from the glues, formaldehyde and VOCs used in laminated wood buildings products as the major issues arising during construction.

“CPCI believes that the Quebec Government is incorrectly over-stepping the national and provincial building codes and standards developed by accredited organizations in order to directly support the wood industry – to the possible detriment of public safety,” the institute said.

“Construction issues should be left to experts and not to politics,” it added.