Demand for mass timber on the rise in Ontario – can supply keep up? – UW GROUP

Demand for mass timber on the rise in Ontario – can supply keep up?

Mass timber, the emerging new material in sustainable building, could be part of the climate change solution and the cornerstone of Ontario’s economic and environmental future. But can its supply keep up with the demand? Researchers at the Daniels Faculty’s Mass Timber Institute (MTI) at the University of Toronto are about to find out.

The research, conducted by Vanessa Nhan, a Master of Forest Conservation student, with support from Glen Foley, forest modeling specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and MTI’s project manager Emmett Snyder, will focus on recalculating existing wood volume on two Crown Forest management units to determine what wood, if any, is leftover after wood supply commitments and shareholder allocations, and if it can be used for a new and sustainable mass timber industry in Ontario.

MTI aims to help Canada become an international leader in tall wood buildings and advanced wood products with its leading-edge research and development, coupled with specialized teaching and training for the next generation of architects, builders, foresters, and designers.

Developers and architects worldwide are rallying for mass timber as the eco-friendly building material of choice for good reason: it’s durable, modular, easier to assemble, fire resistant and aesthetically pleasing. The engineered-wood products — large structural panels, beams and posts — are made from dimensional lumber, veneer or wooden strands, and glued or nailed together in layers, with the wood grain arranged perpendicular for added strength.

“Mass timber is hailed as an advanced building material, in many ways superior to traditional building materials like concrete and steel. Its products can also be preassembled at a factory and then easily shipped to a building site, where they can be assembled like a Lego kit, allowing builders to be more efficient with their resources,” says Snyder.

Perhaps the most exciting benefit is the age-old material coming into its own as a significant part of a climate change solution due to its renewable nature and potential negative carbon impact, he explains. It’s refreshing news considering the manufacturing of concrete and steel, the typical code-approved choice for tall buildings, accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions each year.

“There has been a lot of conversation around embodied carbon emissions in the supply chain and how both concrete and steel are more energy-intensive to produce and emit massive amounts of carbon. Mass timber is commonly seen as a viable, greener alternative to that,” says Snyder.

“We’re advocates for a hybrid approach where sometimes it makes sense to produce a foundation from concrete. But it’s really about sustainable development and combating climate change and the housing affordability crisis—all from this building material.”


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