From the Province of Alberta
Reducing red tape for wood-building construction
Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu announced the change Friday, as part of Red Tape Reduction Awareness Week.
While other jurisdictions in Canada, like British Columbia, currently allow for 12-storey wood construction, Alberta will become the first province in Canada to allow the practice province-wide.
“Not only will this decision support the forestry industry and land developers, it will provide affordability to homebuyers, bolster employment, and give Alberta a competitive advantage. We made this change knowing that mass timber products are safe and that these buildings will meet all necessary standards.”
Current Alberta and national building codes allow wood-building construction for up to six storeys, but the next edition of the National Building Code – anticipated for publication at the end of 2020 – will allow for the use of tall wood construction with fire-resistant material for up to 12 storeys.
Alberta will issue a notice – based on technical provisions developed for the next edition of the National Building Code – to allow early use of tall wood or mass timber construction for up to 12 storeys using fire-resistant material in time for the upcoming construction season.
“We commend the Government of Alberta for advancing the use of wood-building construction of up to 12 storeys with this province-wide variance. By building with products that are made locally, we are supporting thousands of jobs in small communities and large cities throughout the province. From people working in sawmills, to value-add facilities, to jobs in construction and transportation, everyone benefits from this change. Moreover, because wood is fully renewable and has a low carbon footprint, our environment benefits, too.”
New technology makes taller wood construction feasible
Advancements in fire-protection and wood-product technology are allowing for the construction of taller wood buildings without compromising safety.
The building codes will require tall wood buildings to be built as encapsulated mass timber construction, where the solid or engineered wood has been surrounded by fire-resistive material. Buildings of mass timber construction will also be fully sprinklered.
“BILD Alberta is excited to see the Government of Alberta take steps to modernize construction, reduce red tape and address environmental needs by allowing innovative techniques to deliver the homes and buildings people need. This provides our industry and member companies with more options in meeting the housing affordability needs of Albertans.”
- Wood buildings taller than six storeys have been built in Vancouver (University of British Columbia’s 18-storey Brock Commons), Europe, the United States, and other jurisdictions around the world.
- Mass or laminated timber has excellent durability and seismic, fire, and acoustic safety performance.
- The encapsulated mass-timber construction component of the 2020 National Building Code has already been reviewed by the National Building Code committees and fire-safety specialists, structural engineers, architects, scientists, and builders.
Economic impact of tall wood buildings
- Potential to create about 60 jobs per construction site and up to 400 jobs per new sawmill and production sites.
- A growth in demand for lumber, for example, 100-million board feet, about $40-million worth of lumber, is the equivalent to about two mills the size of Boucher Bros Lumber.
Minister Madu tours Western Archrib with (L-R) Paul Whittaker, Scott Fash of BILD, Dale Beesley, Municipal Affairs, and Andre Lema, of Western Archrib.
‘Opposite of busy:’ Business down at pawnshops, payday lenders during pandemic
CALGARY — John Sanford has been a pawnbroker for 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.
Pawnshops and payday loan lenders have long been harbingers of hard economic times due to health and financial crises.
But Sanford says that hasn’t been the case in the topsy-turvy world of 2020 where the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a recession.
“I rushed to the bank before this happened and I got all kinds of cash ready. I thought it was going to be a bonanza. But nope. Absolutely not,” Sanford, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Pawn in Calgary, says as he surveys the dwindling number of items on his shelves.
“It was amazing how much stuff we got after 2015 when the oil went in the tank. We had lots of stuff. And now we have nothing.”
Pawnshops lend people money and typically give them 30 days to come back, repay the loan and retrieve their items. Sanford says about eight out of every 10 customers usually come back.
Sanford on average sees 15 to 30 pawns daily, but on a day last week, he’d only had one by mid-afternoon.
“From the people we’ve talked to and who have come in, the economy’s awash with free money. There’s some people bragging how much they’re getting on CERB,” he says.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit from the federal government provides people out of work due to the pandemic $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.
On the bright side, Sanford days, items that have been sitting in storage for years have been sold. Gold rings, chains, Rolex watches, TVs, video game consoles and stereos flew off the shelves early in the health crisis. Guitars have also been popular.
But with supplies disappearing and nobody pawning items, Sanford predicts a reckoning is coming soon.
“As far as pawns go, this is going to be the worst month since 1982 for lending out money. Thirty days from now we won’t even make enough money to pay our rent.”
The co-owner of Halifax Buy and Sell says business has also been slow.
“It’s really strange,” says Robert Blotnicky. “Literally everybody coming through the store is looking to spend money from their CERB cheques and trying to buy things to secure their needs.”
People also rushed in to pay to get their pawned items back, he says. “At this point, our pawn shelves are very bare.”
The payday loan industry is also struggling, says Alan Evetts, a director of the Canadian Consumer Finance Association and an owner of MyCanadaPayday.com in Vancouver.
In the first six weeks of the pandemic, numbers across the industry were consistently down about 84 per cent from before the crisis, he says.
“Things changed radically. The demand has been completely decimated by COVID,” he says.
“I think there are a few factors driving it. Spending is down to a huge degree while people are at home. And life is cheaper when you don’t leave your house.”
Evetts also blames high unemployment for the dropoff, since loans are dependent on customers having an upcoming payday to repay them.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Increase of COVID-19 cases in Edmonton linked to 2 family gatherings
EDMONTON — Alberta’s medical officer of health says there is an increase of active COVID-19 cases in the Edmonton area linked to two private family gatherings.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the individuals at the gatherings got tested as soon as they felt symptoms, which she adds helped health officials trace and limit further spread of the virus.
She announced 34 new cases in the province and no new deaths.
There are currently 400 active cases in Alberta, with 44 in the Edmonton zone and 309 in the Calgary region.
Hinshaw says there are 53 people in hospital with the virus, and six of those are in intensive care.
Since the pandemic started, Alberta has seen a total of 7,044 COVID-19 cases, 143 deaths and 6,501 people have recovered.
“Outbreaks … linked to social gatherings are expected now that our gathering restrictions have been relaxed,” Hinshaw said Monday during her COVID-19 briefing.
“I must stress that we have the ability to prevent such cases by continuing to follow public health measures when gathering.”
She said people must still keep two metres apart and suggested they not share food or drinks with those outside their households.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020
The Canadian Press
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