Recently announced funding for Ontario's Mass Timber Program will lay the foundational blocks for innovative, new building techniques using wood, according to Ontario Wood WORKS!, the provincial voice of wood construction advocacy.
Marianne Berube, the organization's executive director, noted that, while Natural Resources Canada has dallied in grants for mass timber developments, this is the first time the province has offered assistance for mass timber demonstration projects.
"It's something new," she said. "It's innovation, it's pushing the limits, and that's what this funding's for."
On April 25, the province announced it would put $7.8 million toward the previously announced program, which is designed to support research, education and construction projects related to tall wood buildings.
Of those funds, $3.15 million will go into the research and development of mass timber building systems, while another $2.2 million will go into development and training for architects, engineers, designers, builders, educators and trades workers.
The final $2.45 million will be used to offset the cost of four mass timber building projects: George Brown College's 12-storey Arbour development in Toronto; the 14-storey Academic Tower at the University of Toronto; a 12-storey residential condominium building to be developed by Green-vision Developments in North Bay; and the 57 Wade Avenue development, an eight-storey office building to be built in Toronto.
The current Ontario Building Code allows for the construction of wood-frame buildings up to six storeys. Mass timber construction uses engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber and glue-laminated timber to construct larger, stronger structures.
"This is a different way of building," Berube said. "It's been going on in Europe for years, but coming to Canada, it's really just taking off."
A smattering of mass timber buildings do exist in Canada. The University of British Columbia completed its 18-storey Brock Commons student residence in July, 2017, and in Quebec City construction is ongoing on Origine, a 13-storey condominium development that, when complete, will be the tallest wood construction condominium in North America.
The benefits of mass timber construction are numerous. Its carbon sequestration qualities are prized for combating climate change, and because it's lighter, it's easier to transport, handle and build with.
There's also an expectation that, if mass timber construction takes...