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Author of the article: Denise Deveau Postmedia Content Works

Publishing date:Nov 02, 2020  •  Last Updated 8 hours ago  •  4 minute read

Mass Timber delivers a number of environmental benefits, from reduced carbon emissions to long-term sustainability and reuse. PHOTO BY RENDERING, TORONTO AND REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY, ZAS AND BUCHOLZ MCEVOY ARCHITECTS IN JOINT VENTURE


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For the last six years, students from the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades have joined engineering and architecture students for the annual TimberFever mass timber design-build competition. With the mass timber movement gaining traction in Ontario, skills building efforts like these will be needed more than ever.

“Mass timber really changes the way we design and think about how structures are actually built,” said David Moses, principal, Moses Structural Engineers, who partners with the College to run the event.

Unlike steel and concrete, mass timber is produced and prefabricated off-site and delivered to job sites for just-in-time assembly. Not only does this reduce construction costs and time, wood offers better thermal efficiency. More importantly, it delivers a number of environmental benefits, from reduced carbon emissions to long-term sustainability and reuse.


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“It’s an environmentally appealing option that will help governments and developers meet greenhouse gas commitments and promote a more sustainable economy,” said Mike Yorke, president, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.

Major commercial and educational projects in Toronto can be found at 80 Atlantic Avenue in Liberty Village, University of Toronto, George Brown College, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, among others.

A six-storey townhouse development project at Queen and Coxwell is the first residential mass timber residential project in Ontario, but will certainly not be the last, according to Leith Moore, principal and founder, R-Hauz Solution Inc. in Toronto. “There’s a lot of innovation in what we’re doing with this pilot project.”

This is a significant project for residential development, as the city needs alternative and cost-effective solutions that can be built on smaller properties with minimal disruption, he added. “Mass timber opens up an important opportunity for mid-rise, street-scale neighbourhood projects that can be built quickly and efficiently.”

One of the more compelling draws of mass timber construction is that it makes use of local resources, Yorke said. “In using mass timber for building, we are integrating and promoting resources within Ontario and Canada. It allows us to make better use of the raw resources we have, as well as filter that to smaller communities in the way of extraction, sawmills, secondary manufacturing and assembly, versus buying steel and concrete on the global market. Countries such as Austria and Italy have really shown what’s possible in this respect in creating jobs and prosperity thru development of their timber resources.”

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While mass timber construction is not new to the industry in theory, the economics and sourcing came with challenges, said Peter Duckworth-Pilkington, principal at ZAS Architects + Interiors in Toronto, who is currently working on the landmark Toronto and Region Conservation Authority project. “Pricing for mass timber has reached a competitive level with the availability of local sourcing.”

With more competitive pricing, developers are attracted to the sustainability and carbon capture benefits of mass timber, he added. “We have a process that is net negative carbon producing and sustainably harvested that can be redesigned and recycled ad infinitum. Canada has wood in abundance so we can do this sustainably while creating long term, high quality local jobs.”

Element5 is the first Ontario-based mass timber producer that is working to build up supply for the province’s growing portfolio of construction projects. “There is a huge demand and opportunities are building up, with a dozen or more substantial mass timber buildings in various stages of design, development and construction. I believe Ontario will become a centre of the industry,” said Patrick Chouinard, founder.

His motivation initially was the business opportunity. “But we were also motivated by the opportunity to change the way buildings are being constructed and create beautiful buildings that are healthier to live in.”

Mass timber is so new in the mainstream construction world, it’s essential to make sure that the skilled labour is ready to match demand. “We have to retool the trades for this type of installation and construction. It’s a whole new innovation front for carpenters, during a time where new codes and products are constantly changing,” said Marianne Berube, executive director Canadian Wood Council in Ottawa.


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“A lot of younger people are very excited and interested in this because it introduces them to a lot of new technologies and higher quality construction innovation,” said Moses, who is working with the Carpenters College on its mass timber curriculum.

The carpenters’ union is on the forefront of the industry in trying to drive the mass timber movement, Chouinard said. “Mass timber will mean more jobs for carpenters. Because few people in local markets know how to put these together, we will be depending on the them to provide the skills to assemble these after we design and manufacture them. But the real motivation is that it is making positive contributions to the environment, forest industry and our communities.”

According to Yorke, the question he is often asked by the various communities, beyond the capacity to supply the wood, is will they be able to get skilled labour. “We are working with partners on providing a pool of skilled labour ready to take on mass timber projects.  Together we are supporting environmental sustainability, creating green jobs, and assisting the growth and prosperity of Ontario’s resource-based communities.”

This story was created by Postmedia Content Works, on behalf of Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario.

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