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Mass timber makes its mark at Chalk River

Modern wood engineering applied to three building projects for research campus revitalization

Mass timber construction is part of a multi-million-dollar makeover of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) facility at Chalk River.

To kick off of the start of National Forest Week, Paul Lefebvre, the parliamentary secretary of federal natural resources minister Seamus O'Regan, announced on Sept. 21 a federal contribution of nearly $4 million to CNL for construction – now underway – for new wood-framed buildings for the Atomic Energy of Canada labs.

The funding is coming through Natural Resources Canada's Green Construction through Wood program.

Ottawa has committed $1.2 billion over the 10 years to revitalize the campus. 

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A team of designers and contractors are involved in three buildings that will use mass timber techniques and products, particularly for the 100,000-square-foot, six-storey Business Hub building, a collaborative space for 400 engineers and staff.

Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, considered one of the country's premier science and technology facilities, sits on a 3,700-hectare site. The place employs more than 3,000.

"Canada is a world leader in developing new ways to use wood in construction. This helps us achieve our climate goals and creates new markets for Canadian timber," said O'Regan in a statement.

"This innovative project demonstrates the benefits of using mass timber products in the construction of industrial buildings. It reinforces our position as a global leader in the transition to a low-carbon future," said Lefebvre.

"The revitalization of the Chalk River Laboratories is key to helping us meet the challenges of tomorrow, including building a low-carbon future," said "Using Canadian wood for our new facilities is part of our commitment to environmental stewardship," said Atomic Energy of Canada president-CEO Richard Sexton in a release. "By building a sustainable, world-class nuclear science and technology campus, we are positioning ourselves to be at the forefront of science and innovation."

"We're very proud to use wood as the main structural construction material for our new buildings, a renewable resource that reduces the carbon footprint of our Chalk River campus," said Canadian Nuclear Laboratories president-CEO Joe McBrearty. "The design also pays tribute to the rich logging and lumber heritage of the Ottawa Valley, something we also take pride in, particularly during National Forest Week."