Demonstration project aims to position Canada as a world leader in tall wood construction and the low-carbon econom

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Written by Donna Mayer

A project that will set a benchmark for sustainable design and construction in commercial building received another show of support with the recent announcement of a $2 million funding contribution.

Toronto Region and Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) new carbon neutral administrative headquarters is one of the winning proposals under the Green Construction through Wood (GCWood) Program.

The 8,100 square metre, four-storey, mass timber office building is intended to be one of the most energy efficient office buildings in North America. It will be constructed almost entirely of wood, approximately 948 cubic metres.

Model simulations are predicting the structure will net a CO2 benefit of approximately 1,142 metric tonnes.

Currently under construction at 5 Shoreham Drive in Toronto at the site of TRCA’s previous permanent head office near York University and the Black Creek Ravine, the office building will accommodate over 400 TRCA staff members

The GCWood Program, administered by Natural Resources Canada, supports Canada’s transition to a more wood-inclusive construction industry by funding projects that encourage greater adoption and commercialization of wood-based products in the construction of innovative tall wood buildings, timber bridges, and low-rise wood buildings

The funding is intended to offset the cost of being the “first mover” of wood-intensive projects, and to support the development of knowledge and tools to support the success of future projects.

The funding announcement was greeted enthusiastically by industry experts.

“We are very excited about this announcement,” said Marianne Berube, executive director of Ontario Wood WORKS!, an industry-led initiative of the Canadian Wood Council that promotes and supports the use of wood in all types of construction.

“The design of the TRCA’s new head office is very innovative,” said Berube. “It demonstrates applications for mass timber products and systems that are currently uncommon in the low-rise commercial sector.”

The structure will be built with glue-laminated timber, an engineered wood product that is bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant structural adhesive. The glulam beams and columns, and upstand glulam beams will permit innovations such as bigger column grid and long spans floor assemblies.

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) stairs and elevator core will be constructed along with CLT as shear walls for Lateral Forces Resistance Systems (LFRS) against wind and earthquake forces.

“The educational value of this building is significant, and the example it sets will help drive advancement in sustainable wood construction and open the door to the increased use of wood in low-rise commercial buildings across Canada,” said Berube.

In addition to housing 400 office workers, TRCA’s new headquarters will be utilized as a learning centrea living laboratory for developers, researchers, professionals and students.

“It’s fitting that this structurally advanced wood building will be a learning centre,” said Rick Jeffery, interim president at the Canadian Wood Council.

“TRCA’s new administration office will showcase the environmental benefits of wood in construction while highlighting the structural diversity of mass timber products in column and floor assembly applications,” said Jeffery.

TRCA’s new mass timber office building is also part of the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program.

The new building is intended to be one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in North America. Once completed in 2021, the office will be a net-zero energy-efficient building, producing at least as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.

Sustainable design features will include:

  • Solar thermal panels on the roof
  • Four solar chimneys
  • Waterwalls to reduce energy use
  • Electric vehicle charging stations
  • Rainwater harvesting to irrigate a green roof

When complete, the building will achieve a low-carbon footprint through all lifecycle phases and achieve significant building certifications including Toronto Green Standard Tier II, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum, and WELL Silver.

The team of ZAS Architects and Bucholz McEvoy Architects are overseeing the design of the TRCA’s new mass timber office building. Their model simulations are predicting over 50% reduction in operating emissions and over 75% reduction in embodied carbon compared to the average building in Toronto.

“TRCA is committed to applying the best practices in green building and sustainable design”, said John MacKenzie, TRCA chief executive officer.

The TRCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario that deliver a local resource management program at the watershed scale to ensure the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats.

“Thanks to Natural Resources Canada’s generous contribution, along with contributions from the Province of Ontario and TRCA’s participating municipalities, our new administrative office building will be one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in North America.”

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