Ontario Construction News staff writer
Changes to Canada’s National Building Code were implemented Jan. 1, including new rules that now allow wood buildings to be constructed up to 12-storeys, double the previous limit of six-storeys.
The changes are being applauded by Canada’s forestry sector, but a Toronto-based architect says there is more to the story.
“There’s a catch that’s not getting talked about,” said Johathan King, architect at 77 Wade and mass timber/tallwood advisor.
“Drywall for fire protection remains a requirement, eliminating the benefits of using wood to support human health (biophilia) and climate action,” he said.
According to King, nail laminated timber – a century-old construction method – is safer.
King advises municipalities, developers and investors including the City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto, Starlight Investments, The Rose Corporation and First Gulf.
“Wood buildings have to be commercially scalable to be viable,” he said. “But what good is building with wood if we’re covering up its health and environmental benefits with plaster?”
This is one reason 77 Wade, an 8-storey commercial wood building in the Junction, has become a long-awaited prototype for builders to use wood without needing drywall.
“All-wood is appealing but unscalable beyond residential and some institutional typologies,” says King. “The search for viability has revealed success is not seeing 100% wood in a single building but instead seeing 30% wood in 10 buildings.”
Due to the commercial sector’s stricter requirements, the ability to architect exposed structural timber commercial buildings offers a blueprint in how to deliver and scale the use of wood for economic and human benefit in any building.
Beyond the economic benefits of wood construction to the forestry industry, there are two critical benefits to wood construction, if the wood is exposed: the promotion of human health through biophilia and the advancement climate action through carbon capture.
“The policy is slowly catching up to the innovation, but the code by nature will lag behind in assessing industry trends and technological advancement because it takes time to study a change within the context of the public’s best interests,” King said. “The most important thing for the code to do is continue to evolve alongside systems and structures and to address these changes based on the unique needs and interests of a community.”
Beyond the economic benefits of wood construction to the forestry industry, there are two critical benefits to wood construction, if the wood is exposed: the promotion of human health and the advancement climate action through carbon capture.