In August, the Thunder Bay-based Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE) announced it is contributing $350,000 to fund the construction of a demonstration building at the school that will incorporate CLT into its design.
It would be the first major use of CLT, an emerging building material, in Ontario. Research gleaned from the demonstration building would be used to encourage more construction with CLT throughout the province, with the added bonus of boosting its latent forestry industry.
“What we’re seeing is a slow and steady recovery, and we’re beginning to form an understanding of the critical role projects such as this play in assisting our industry to change and adapt,” said Lorne Morrow, the CEO of CRIBE, a non-profit agency created to support the commercial end of the forestry industry.
Comprised of 2X4s and 2X6s pressed together to form large solid blocks or sheets of wood, CLT is strong, fire resistant and can be used as walls, floors or roof panels. It is now being widely used across Europe, in buildings as tall as 11 storeys.
In Canada, CLT is only produced in British Columbia and Quebec, but Morrow believes that could change once people see the added value and spinoffs CLT can provide to the forestry industry.
“If you can take 2X6s and make them into a CLT panel, you’re adding value and you’re also supporting industry; you’re diversifying it away from total dependence on house starts in the U.S.,” he said.
In Ontario, the use of wood is still limited by the province’s building code, which views wood as too flammable a material to be used extensively throughout a building’s construction. Its use is restricted to two storeys in institutional buildings and four storeys in residential structures.
The demonstration building, which will house the school’s library and theatre, located in the third wing of the school complex, will test the best and safest use of wood products, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci said during the funding announcement.
Expressing optimism that the building would illustrate the potential of CLT in Ontario construction, he suggested it may have a hand in evolving the building code to encompass a greater use of wood.
“I think this demonstration project situated here at the school of architecture is going to change the perception of the potential of wood,” Bartolucci said. “I’m convinced this will create a whole new market for Ontario’s wood.”
Canada has fallen behind in innovative building design and is now playing catchup to Europe, said David Warne, a partner and project architect with Levitt Goodman Architects, the Toronto-based firm that has been hired to design the school.
Europeans’ progressive views about conservation and reducing their carbon footprint have meant advances in their building practices that Canada hasn’t yet seen, he said. But the introduction of CLT provides Ontario with an opportunity to explore innovation design with cutting-edge techniques.
Concrete, a popular construction material, requires energy to produce and evaporates carbon into the atmosphere, Warne said. Rather than have CLT built in BC and shipped to Ontario, it makes more environmental and financial sense to use the resources available in Ontario to make them here.
It also fits in with the school’s three-cornered philosophy, which is to incorporate northern culture, the northern environment and sustainable design into its creation, he said.
“Wood makes imminent sense in a project like this because wood is a sustainable resource, it’s rapidly renewable, it sequesters carbon and we can build with it,” Warne said.
In addition to encouraging the use of research and development in the wood industry, along with creating economic spinoffs, Warne said the project will also serve to inspire future generations of architects to use wood creatively and sustainably in their designs.
Phase one of the school’s construction is scheduled to begin in January with the renovation of the two existing CP Rail buildings, while construction of the two new buildings, including the CLT-enhanced library and theatre, is estimated to begin in June 2013.