Industry News - U of T says 14-Storey Timber Tower to be Symbol of Wood Sustainability
Industry News - U of T says 14-Storey Timber Tower to be Symbol of Wood Sustainability
Industry News - U of T says 14-Storey Timber Tower to be Symbol of Wood Sustainability

The University of Toronto is slated to build a timber tower that it says will be among the tallest of its kind in North America.

A 14-storey building, made of wood and concrete, will be built at its downtown campus off Bloor St. West. Construction of the tower, which will partially be built with cross-laminated timber, is tentatively set to begin in 2019.

Gilbert Delgado, Chief of University Planning, Design and Construction at the University of Toronto, said cross-laminated timber “gives you the opportunity to create some really lovely interior spaces that are faced in natural wood” and still be fire-resistant.

“If you hold a match up to a log, you’ll never light it,” Delgado said. “You need kindling. So basically, because these wood timbers are large, the kindling temperature is much higher and therefore does not have to be encased in fire protection.”

Traditional wood buildings are typically made of smaller, light-weight wood, which is then encased in fireproofing. But the larger pieces of cross-laminated timber are “much more fire resistant,” Delgado said.

Joseph Su, principal research officer for fire safety at the National Research Council of Canada, has been leading projects on cross-laminated timber fire testing for the last decade.

“The … timber is more difficult to burn than the normal two-by-four, two-by-six that we live in,” he said. But Su said there is a limit — one he regularly pushes in his testing.

“You cannot say I want to expose so much of a surface; there is a limit,” Su said. “The current proposed limits in (the U.S. and Canada) are, I think, pretty reasonable, pretty safe.”

Cross-laminated timber was invented in the 1970s and has gained traction since 2000, according to the Canadian Wood Council. Natural Resources Canada has identified cross-laminated timber as a renewable alternative to concrete and steel buildings.

The University of Toronto had originally planned to build the structure with steel, but “became aware of this wood technology … and it seemed to be quite feasible,” Delgado said.

The building will be located above the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport off Bloor St. W.

“We want this to be a symbol of wood sustainability,” Delgado said.

“We will expose the wood in a very conspicuous way, so it will actually communicate a different way to build. Because it is a highrise on Bloor St., we believe that it will be emblematic in terms of a new way of building.”

The provincial and federal governments also provide funding incentives to build such structures, Delgado said, which are currently more expensive to construct than more traditional buildings.

The federal government’s Green Construction Through Wood program, announced by Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, aims to help achieve climate-change goals and increase the demand for Canadian wood products. The 2017 budget allocated $39.8 million over four years, beginning in April 2018, to the initiative.

The University of Toronto tower is being designed by Patkau Architects of Vancouver, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects and Blackwell Structural Engineers of Toronto.

Paul Cooper, a professor emeritus at U of T’s Faculty of Forestry, said wooden structures are a growing trend that began in Europe.

Cooper said “apart from another big application for wood products, which is important to Canada,” there is growing interest in wooden structures for environmental reasons.

“In Europe, I think that’s probably behind a lot of the push,” Cooper said. “They’re looking for what are thought to be environmentally better solutions … In Canada, I’d say that that’s an issue, but probably the potential market for lumber products and so on is driving it, as well.”

Lucas Epp, head of engineering at StructureCraft, said “there’s definitely a lot of hype around taller wood buildings because it garners a lot of media attention and intrigues people’s interest.”

“The cool thing about tall wood buildings is that they set a trend, they set an example of what’s possible,” Epp said.

“And they engage the public’s interest with this whole new concept that wood has really come back as a new, primary … building material and that it’s safe, it’s reliable, it’s cost-efficient, it creates a beautiful environment and it’s sustainable.”

Earlier this year, Sumitomo Forestry announced plans to build what it says would be the world’s tallest wooden building in Tokyo.

The 70-storey tower will be 90 per cent wood. The building, which will house stores, offices, hotels and residences, will cost roughly 600 billion yen (about $7 billion Canadian) and is scheduled to be completed by 2041.

Article provided by The Toronto Star, U of T says 14-Storey Timber Tower to be Symbol of Wood Sustainability, May 9, 2018


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