The head of the state agency charged with licensing professionals and enforcing commercial building codes wants to make it easier for mass timber buildings to rise in Wisconsin. Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary-designee Dawn Crim announced support for an ongoing update to the state building code to make it easier to build using the mass timber building method. This includes allowing mass timber structures of up to 18 stories tall to be built without requiring variances, said a department spokesperson. “This would result in jobs creation, particularly in rural parts of the state where forests, mills, and most other related manufacturing facilities are located,” Crim said in a statement. “Updating our codes would be good not only for the environment, but also for the economy.” The state's current commercial building code limits the use of mass timber to four-story buildings unless the architect and building owner pursue a variance. This often adds time and cost to a project. However, the Commercial Building Code Council is in the process of updating Wisconsin's commercial building code. The existing building code adopts the 2015 International Building Code with some modifications. Wisconsin hasn't yet adopted the IBC-2018, which allows for more expansive use of mass timber. But the IBC-2021 is the version that allows for mass timber buildings up to 18 stories without variances. Crim supports that element of the 2021 version being included in the state's updated building code, a spokesperson said. Mass timber is different than traditional lumber construction in that large timber is combined together to create structural members, such as columns, beams and floor structures. A mass timber is built almost completely with wood. Milwaukee has two mass timber projects either under construction or recently completed, with a third planned. The city's first mass timber building was the Timber Lofts, a 60-unit apartment project in Walker's Point. Under construction is Ascent, a 25-story apartment building downtown. A Madison-based developer is also drafting plans for The Edison, an apartment tower reaching up to 16 stories on a downtown riverfront site. The Department of Safety and Professional Services issues more than 240 unique licenses, administers dozens of boards and councils that regulate professions, enforces state building codes, runs the state fire prevention program and maintains the Wisconsin Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.