Goodbye Grey Buildings and say hello to Wooden ones

The realization of climate change comes with a new era of building norms. The introduction of timber materials over the concrete and steel has begun. Commonly used in timber projects are cross-laminated timber commonly referred to CLT.

What is Cross Laminated Timber (CLT)?

Cross-laminated timber is a type of prefabricated wood panels that come in a variety of scales. This comes in handy for those large-scale projects aka “saving time, saving money.” Cross-laminated timber is constructed of many layers of wooden boards. These boards are then stacked on top of one another; each layer glued perpendicular to that last layer. With layers stacked perpendicular, it becomes a strong building material. Once panels are complete, CLT boards are just as strong as the use of concrete! The panels can be made from plans consisting of window openings, door openings, and plumbing and ventilation openings. So now, everything is in place and the construction of your design is almost done. A great benefit of using cross-laminated timber panels results in a low impact on the construction site; no wasted time = faster results. It is a general knowledge that building materials have a huge negative impact on our planet so to reduce this we should begin using materials that are readily available to us.

What about fire?

Well, let me tell you. Some of the many benefits with the use of engineered wood panels for construction are the fact that it is lightweight. That might not sound like a benefit but hear me out; with the traditional steel and concrete, natural disasters such as an earthquake, cause more damage to the structure in comparison to using cross-laminated timber. More projects are being proposed with wood because benefits like: economically practical, environmentally friendly, and with prefabricated elements the building process becomes more efficient and precise. This lightweight material reduces the thickness of the slab (the layer before all flooring is put in place), which helps to reduce the negative impact on our beloved Earth. I bet you are probably wondering what about fire?
“When it comes to fire protection, cross-laminated timber does not need to be fireproofed”.
In the article on the University of Toronto site, it sums it up with if you were to light a log of wood on the fire, it would be difficult for it to ignite. With that in mind, at a larger scale with a much thicker piece of wood, it would be even more difficult.

Another universal reason why wood is favored over hard material such as concrete is its appearance in addition to its environment perk! When I look at buildings that are made of concrete, there is a cold lifeless feeling I get but when I look at a building made of timber, there is some type of softness to it which we all gravitate towards. As stated before, these CLT panels are prefabricated so when they are transported to the building site, the panels are bolted into position. Quicker assembly, less hassle. It also is way more efficient in comparison to the traditional build; CLT panels ensure no waste of material because it is already built, it just needs to be put into place so no wasting of construction time. It is also beneficial in terms of health and safety due to a decrease in dust levels. With current Toronto construction building sites popping up everywhere I go, I definitely understand the importance of the dust level! On a greater scale, with the alarming rate of climate change, the use of cross-laminated timber would contribute to delay our negative impact to the planet, as well as my lung condition:)


Where are the wooden buildings?

Brock Commons Tallwood House

Many places in Canada are starting to build with CLT. One that has been constructed is located in Vancouver, for the University of British Columbia. Brock Commons Tallwood House, a student residence for the University of British Columbia, constructed of timber material with cast-in-place concrete for the stair and elevator shafts. This eighteen-story building comes in at a height of 53 meters. This residence was completed within seventy days after the prefabrication process was complete.

“SEVENTY DAYS, A LITTLE OVER TWO MONTHS to build a residence!!! That is insane”!

McEwen School of Architecture – Laurentian University

In a northern Ontario city, Sudbury is home to campus with the CLT building. Designed by LGA Architectural Partners and founding Director Terrance Galvin, this campus embraces the culture of Sudbury, wood construction, and design for the impact of climate change. At the McEwen School of Architecture – Laurentian University, this campus houses the CTL building for the auditorium, library, and classroom. It is a wonderful building( I know, I am biased….considering I attend the school) that mixes different textures; glass, concrete/steel, and wood. I attend this university and let me tell you on those harsh winter days, the CLT building helps brighten my mood as well as demonstrating how strong it can be.

McEwen School of Architecture – Laurentian University

Another example of a timber building – with construction to start at the end of 2019 is the Academic Tower located on top of the Goldring Centre at the University of Toronto. Patkau Architects in Vancouver and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects in Toronto designed this project. This build is still in the development phase on increasing height for timber buildings, according to the University site.

Buildings that breathe

A recent posting from the firm 3XN proposed another tall timber building for a ten-story office complex. The site for this proposal is on the outskirts of where all the tall glass skyscrapers and the use of timber provide a softer look to the city and the start to the transition from traditional build to this sustainable way of design. The firm released a statement to the use of wood, “a breathable and adsorbent material that allows the release of moisture, ensures a naturally regulated and healthy indoor environment.” With all these proposals, it is making use of our country’s resources.
This new age of timber building construction has come. Many projects are being designed with this material all over the world; especially right here at home – in Toronto. With built forms and proposed designs, the power of engineered wood panels brings us into the next era of construction. So don’t be too shocked when you see wooden towers popping up everywhere.