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Decreasing embodied carbon in new construction with sustainable wood

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada

As part of its New Building Update Vancouver has made commitments to reducing embodied carbon in new construction as part of its climate action plan, and has employed policies to ensure that the wood used in new development projects is “sustainable and ethical”. The motion was approved in early 2022, with the policy set to be part of the Vancouver Building Bylaw starting in 2025.

Specifically, these amendments to the Vancouver Building Bylaw are specifically focused on decreasing embodied carbon by 20% (compared to concrete) for low-rise buildings that can be built in wood or mass timber. The city would also like to use the policy to achieve a 10% embodied carbon decrease for high-rises and buildings that can only use non-combustible construction materials. This will be implemented starting in 2025, with further reductions anticipated by 2030.

According to the New Building Update, all new buildings up to 6 storeys must meet: 

  1. the baseline embodied carbon goal stated above, and 

  2. at least one sustainable and ethical material criteria (outlined below). 

“Sustainable and Ethical” materials are defined as:  

The majority (≥50% by volume or weight) of the wood of the building is sustainably and equitably sourced according to one of the following standards and practices:Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC);Certification by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI);Certification by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA);Indigenous-managed or community-based forestry; or,alternates provided and documented to the satisfaction of the Chief Building Official.

More information on the Sustainable Wood for Cities platform can be found here.

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